Planetarium for schools
In a hurry? Go to our Quick Show Picker
A visit to a planetarium can be invaluable in communicating ideas of scale and distance in space. Such things simply do not fit into books, or even classrooms! The huge domed screen gives a sense of immersion and the experience is awe-inspiring and memorable.
The DCSF suggest a planetarium visit in yr 5 during the Earth, Sun and Moon topic.
The planetarium can be booked alone, but the Science Centre would recommend also spending time in the exhibition space. For more about what the Science Centre can offer schools, prices and for help with planning a visit, see the Education section.
To book, call Jane King on 01962 891 900. Scroll down for further details.
Neighbourhood Earth show (stage demo)
The show names link to descriptions further down this webpage. Note there are other shows too down there, the ones in the picker are just the most commonly booked.
*Reception infants can only see "Secret of the Cardboard Rocket".
|yr 3/4||yr 5/6||yr 7||yr 8/9|
|Curriculum||Neighbourhood Earth (live, general astronomy but little time for planets)||Alien Worlds (live)||Bespoke Show (live)|
|Human space flight||Astronaut (shuttle missions and International Space Station)|
|Planets||Secret of the Cardboard Rocket (film)||
The Planet show (live)
(film, up to yr6 only)
or Cosmic Journey (film)
|Constellations||Simply Stars (live)|
|Awe/Wonder||Secret of the Cardboard Rocket (film)|
|Greeks||Neighbourhood Earth (live, ask for Greeks when booking)|
|Simply Stars (live, constellations only, ask for Greeks when booking)|
|Aliens||We are Aliens (film)||
Alien Worlds (live) or
for KS3/4 We are Aliens (film)
|Astronomy as a process||We are Astronomers (film, very stylish & enjoyable)|
|Black Holes||Black Holes (film, inc. big bang & stellar evolution)|
|Biology||Wake up and Smell the Coffee (film, top KS4 / KS5, biochem)|
|Natural Selection (film, evolution)|
|Cell! Cell! Cell! (entertaining film, cell biology/DNA)|
|PMLD purely sensory||
Black Holes (film, no flickering lights) or
We are Astronomers (film, some flickering lights)
|yr 3/4||yr 5/6||yr 7||yr 8/9||
Please be ready outside planetarium 10 minutes before your showtime.
Teachers and helpers sit amongst the students to aid discipline during the show. Adults will be given red torches which can be used, if necessary, to aid exit. However, discipline is rarely a problem as the students are generally very well engaged.
Any show can be followed by Q&A, but if booking a film show please check that there will be specialist staff available to do this.
The Astrium planetarium seats up to 176, so you may share your show with another group of similar age/ability. Larger groups (up to 200) can be squeezed in on request.
Members of the public are sometimes allowed into school shows in strictly limited numbers (and excluding those under 5yrs). However, the presenter's attention will remain fully on the school group(s).
Detailed Show Descriptions
Appropriate key stages are suggested for each show. Note that younger children may still enjoy 'older' shows if they have done project work on an area or are G&T. Please ask for guidance if this is the case.
A live presenter tailors the show to the ability of the audience.
A live show for KS3+ designed around concepts you are likely to cover in the classroom, while taking an exciting flight through space, with visuals created in real-time. Considers the properties of the Earth that make it appropriate for life and which control our environment, visits other places in the solar system where life might lurk (and how we know about these), and then considers whether life might exist around other stars, how we can find it (eletromagnetic spectrum) and whether we might meet aliens anytime soon. More information about this show
An interactive show with stage demos. This show has simpler visuals than our others, but it is the best choice for KS1-2 for an overview of all the topics you are likely to cover in the classroom (although it doesn't spend long on planets).
The shiow considers the Earth, Sun and Moon before turning to our view of the night sky and (for KS2+) considering our place in the Universe. The KS2+ version contains a loud bang: please ask if you would like to be warned when this will occur so that a child can cover their ears or briefly leave the planetarium.
Visuals are controlled in real-time, giving a flight through the solar system, orbiting each planet in turn. The show looks at the Earth, the structure of the solar system and then flies to look at the planets and consider how they are different from each other. A great way to get away from the distorted scales used in other media: get an idea of how huge those distances really are compared to the sizes of the planets.
Lie back under a simple starry sky and learn how to spot some of the constellations that are visible at this time of year. Planets or other objects may also be mentioned if they are visible at times the children might be able to spot them. Very simple visuals; this is a traditional style planetarium show. The mix of stories/astronomy will vary appropriately with the ages of the audience. Ask when booking if you would like a focus on Ancient Greeks.
Great visuals controlled in real-time, giving a seamless flight through the observed universe. Similar to the planet show but we zoom all the way out to see our galaxy and then the many other galaxies in the Universe. The presenter is sat at the back so this show is not as interactive as Neighbourhood Earth nor does it give such a balanced overview of the subject although it's perfect for ideas of size, scale and our place in space. Does not include stellar evolution or structure of stars. A great way to inspire/wow your kids, but note that KS2 kids might get very excited so this isn't so good if you want them to listen silently! Perfect for science clubs or as a special treat
KS4 and post-16 teachers may be interested in a bespoke show based on a ‘live fly’ experience where our presenter flys in real time around the observed universe. This would essentially be an adapted version of "Flight Through the Universe". Example content includes explanations of RA/Dec, the magnetosphere, satellite orbits, star orbits within our galaxy, dark matter halo and zoom out to the edge of the Observable Universe. Planetarium staff can also show the sky as observed at different wavelengths - but can not show stellar evolution, black holes or comets. Please get in touch to discuss what can be offered to you.
Cell! Cell! Cell! (24min, film, KS3-5) - join Raj and Sooki to visit the busy world of cell biology. A bright, entertaining show that is popular with students but packed with information. Discover the 3D structure and complexity of cells, the secret of DNA and how we all started as a single cell. Includes accurate modelling of organelles, membrane structure, genes, differentiation, conception and embryogenesis, and how cells work together in the body. Foreground/narration is aimed at KS3/4 level, while the background contains elements relevant to KS5.
Cell! Cell! Cell! comes with an optional post-show presentation (additional cost, please ask for details). Free branded resources and show imagery/movies for use in the classroom are available from a dedicated website (www.cellcellcell.com)
Natural Selection (40min, film, KS3-5) - stunningly produced show about Darwin's life and work. Explaining his background, experiences and the thought processes that led him to come to his conclusions, then briefly considering more recent discoveries that have built on his ideas. This is a very detailed and accurate show. Includes a scene of Darwin shooting a bird. Highly recommended; in public showings this has proved our most popular film show ever.
Aimed at AS and A2-level biology students (perhaps also of interest to higher-level KS4?), this fulldome show explains atomic structure and the structure of a molecule of caffeine, flying the audience through cell membranes and travelling the bloodstream, finally crossing the blood/brain barrier to discover how it's the shape of caffeine that causes it to act as a competitive inhibitor of ATP (in its role as a neurotransmitter), reducing drowsiness.
This show was made by Surrey University as part of the British Science Festival 2009 and was funded by SEEDA. Nice visuals and music, and accurate information. The style is more academic than our other shows. Peter Symonds College made repeat visits to see this show with entire AS year groups.
Designed for KS3 school groups. Super-stylish show; I reckon this is one of the best fulldome films ever made. Explains what an astronomer is and how they work in worldwide networks to manage the large amounts of data they collect. Great for showing potential jobs in astronomy and highlights the UK contribution. Includes the electromagnetic spectrum, James Webb Telescope and Large Hadron Collider. More educational than the Black Holes show. Does not include a lot of 'flying through space'. Contains one scene with flickering (potentially dangerous to photosensitive epileptics) but you can be warned when this will occur.
KS3 teacher comments "Awesome, unmissable, mindblowing", "Stunning. The way the show was put together was fantastic". One pupil wrote on the show's website: “I am 12, and today I watched "We are Astronomers". We were the first people to watch it at the INTECH planetarium, I thought it was brilliant and it really inspired me!". More details on the show website
Lovely up to date (2012) film show about the search for alien life. Considers why we are searching, places we might find life (including Mars, showing a robot explorer), how to find planets around other stars, and what the future might hold. We expect this to be very popular with the kids, and it would work well as a treat.
The aliens are very cute and the visuals varied and non-abstract, so we also expect KS1 would enjoy it even though they wouldn't follow all the science. Older (KS4+) groups with a need for directed serious science might find it rather lightweight.
Beautifully child-centred show. Join two children as they explore our solar system in a homemade rocket. This show has simpler visual effects than our other film shows in places, but is great for the kids and is a gentle experience with plenty of brighter sections. Usually the Science Centre would always recommend live shows, but for KS1 wanting to 'see the planets' this is a top recommendation. It is not very dark and is great at holding attention and for these reasons is the only show available for groups with Reception children.
A flight around our solar system, visiting the major objects, comparing the planets and considering whether there might be life out there. Good if you particularly want to see the planets, which are not covered in detail in Neighbourhood Earth, but the live "The Planet show" is a better choice if a presenter is available.
Older groups (yr8+) might find the American narration a bit patronising. Younger groups (up to yr6) would probably do better with Secret of the Cardboard Rocket (which also visits all the planets).
Find out what it takes to be an astronaut. A great fun show covering how astronauts are trained, how space affects their bodies (includes KS3/4 biology) and the dangers they face (using a funny cartoon sequence). A good overview of the issues involved in human space flight in the shuttle era.
This is the most popular pre-recorded show for family groups and is hugely enjoyed by younger children despite the narration using language more appropriate to KS3+. Please be aware KS1 children will not follow much of the narration, but love to see the astronauts working in space and a cartoon sequence showing all the dangers they face. We have had plenty of re-bookings for this age group.
This show includes two short sections of flashing images potentially dangerous to photosensitive epileptics but you can be warned before these occur so that eyes can be covered (please let staff know when booking). This show does not include very much 'flying through space'.
Stellar evolution, the Big Bang, distortion of spacetime (lovely scene showing distortion of a 3D grid) and Black Holes. Touching on advanced science, but everyone will love the stunning and dramatic presentation. Stylish in a way that older groups will appreciate. Nice as a treat!
Presents the history of telescopes, the science behind their optics (eg chromatic aberation) and how they are used. Lots of content (maybe too much?). The science is KS3+ but the American delivery feels more KS2 and may put off older/cooler groups. Best for yr6? If you'd like to bring a group for free in return for giving us your feedback about the show, then get in touch.
Don't see what you were looking for? Let us know what you would like us to develop in future. It takes a lot of time and money to produce a fulldome show but if you tell us what you would like to see then the Science Centre can do its best to make it available in future.