The Center for Cosmological Physics (CfCP) offered an historic
three-day cosmology short course for planetarium staff designed
to enliven current planetarium programming by incorporating modern
This successful course serves as a model for a new type of professional
development, one that connects forefront research and informal
education. Key to this connection were scientists actively engaged
in cosmological research who acted as course instructors. Their
involvement brought an incredible richness to the course including
a deep and current understanding of the field, tools for communicating
this science, and the intangible excitement of discovery. The
participants reported learning a tremendous amount of cosmology,
and more importantly, that they plan to translate their experiences
into programming for their visitors (see Evaluations).
(46) planetarians (see Participants)
attended "Origin of Structure in the Universe."
They came from as far away as Japan and from planetariums of all
sizes (e.g., from inflatable domes to the Hayden Planetarium).
The course was a mixture of lectures, hands-on and computer laboratories,
tours of research facilities, and question and answer/discussion
sections. (see Schedule and Photos).
Participants were also provided with resources to use back
at their home institutions. These resources included short movies
and electronic versions of all lectures (see Talks).
A follow-up session, lead by CfCP Director Bruce Winstein, was
held at the 2003 annual Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA)
meeting in Cleveland. As a subsidiary objective of the short course
was to establish a collaborative network, the CfCP also continues
to stay in touch with the participants via e-mail and the Internet.
to undertaking such a new venture the Center conducted a multi
pronged needs assessment. The needs assessment included
presenting a paper on the issue of current cosmological research
in planetariums at the 2002 GLPA Meeting (see Cosmology
at Planetaria), a survey of the GLPA executive committee,
and many individual conversations with members of the planetarium
and research communities. The collective responses clearly indicated
that the interest was strong and that the need for such a course
was great. Especially notable findings were the current lack of
cosmology content in planetarium programming (beyond mention of
the Big Bang), and the lag between the many recent advances in
our understanding of the universe and what is portrayed in planetarium
shows. The assessment also revealed that there are very limited
professional development opportunities for planetarium staff,
and strongly suggested the need for future professional development
programs. Upon completion, the CfCP assessed the course itself
via a participant survey. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive
for example, 91% felt that the course would directly affect the
contents of their planetarium shows (see Evaluations
for more details).
all accounts, the "Origin of Structure in the Universe"
short course was highly successfully and will have repercussions
well beyond the three-day event. Within a month of the course,
participants had already reported big and small changes in their
programming and grander plans for the future. These plans include
a committee working on a collective cosmology program for the
GLPA. In addition, the center continues to develop follow-up activities
to nurture the new programming, collaborations, and partnerships
seeded by the course. Thus the primary goal of this course, "incorporating
modern cosmology into planetarium programming," has been
and will be met. In a broader context, the success of this course
suggests it as a model for future professional development programs
for planetarium staff, particularly because it demonstrates that
it is possible to connect the often distant realms of informal
education and modern scientific research.
special thanks to our principal collaborators: the Great
Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA) and the Adler
Planetarium & Astronomy Museum.