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Planetarium History

Mayo High School Planetarium History

Mayo High School Planetarium – Rochester Public Schools in Rochester, MN

The MHS Planetarium is the oldest permanent school operated planetarium in the state; one of only three remaining school-based planetariums in the state.  Opened in 1966, this virtual reality environment has hosted nearly 850,000 student visitors and has been used for nearly 21,000 classroom lesson presentations.  The planetarium serves as a learning lab for district K-12 grade students, adult learners through Community Education, area school districts and for community groups. Educationally, the planetarium is first and foremost a classroom laboratory that is designed to visually reinforce classroom lessons. The planetarium provides an opportunity for hypothesis, observation, logical analysis, proof, measurement, and an infinite testing ground under a controlled classroom setting.  As these skills are important to problem solving in general and especially to the use of the scientific method, the planetarium is of educational value.  Under the artificially produced sky, a variety of situations can be presented to the student. By presenting material in a visual way only achievable in a planetarium, abstract concepts have more "real" meaning.  This laboratory approach to planetarium instruction means that students are not passive receptors of scientific facts but are immersed in images of their universe.

In 2007, our district became the first school-based planetarium in the world to install the digital scaling software, Uniview http://www.scalingtheuniverse.com/ . The sixty seat astronomical learning center’s projection system is complemented with the installation of a three-foot diameter Magic Planet digital video globe http://www.globalimagination.com/  in an adjoining classroom.

This new digital planetarium large-screen format projection equipment, plus the video globe, makes this student centered learning facility unique. It also leverages our ability to communicate ideas to students well beyond the confines of traditional planetarium equipment. Real data from the constellation of robotic emissaries mapping our planet and solar system can be displayed, as well as the latest 3-D galaxy map of the universe obtained from the world’s great observatories. Students become immersed in these new views of the cosmos. These educational teaching tools also provide new resources to teach concepts pertaining to earth sciences and issues related to global climate observations.

The digital capabilities of the planetarium also allow the MHS Planetarium, located here in Rochester, MN, to connect with other digital planetariums around the world. Guests to the MHS Planetarium can listen to a scientist giving a lecture in Chicago, IL while the Chicago technicians control the planetarium here in Rochester, MN. It is a unique experience. With the original Spitz star ball, the sky was literally the limit. Now, the sky is only the beginning and we are limited only by our imaginations.

Sixty- to ninety-minute lessons are tailored to grade level and are focused on the Minnesota State Science Standards.  The planetarium can also be used for private group visits. There is a $100 Facility Use Fee assessed to out-of-district schools and groups. For more information, or to arrange a site visit, contact:

Planetarium Director Paul Larson (palarson@rochester.k12.mn.us)

Mayo High School Planetarium…the place where students connect awe with “aha!”

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