Group and School Programs


Group and School Programs

| Feature Programs | Sky Lectures | Other Programs | Planning Your Trip | Contact Info |


The ISU Planetarium offers a variety of programs complimenting Illinois's preschool, elementary, middle, and high school science and math curriculum. Additionally, these programs provide enriching entertainment for clubs and social groups.

Online Programs

Please visit our YouTube channel for educational programs available on-line for free!

And, visit the ISU Plantarium's Facebook page for astronomical activities, along with the latest happenings in astronomy and science!

Feature Programs Under Our Dome

In-person feature programs include emersive full-dome video, narration, music, and special effects devoted to a single topic. These programs are usually followed by a brief look at the bright stars and constellations found in the current evening sky.

Please note: Following Illinois State University policy: face coverings are recommended, but not required, in all University public indoor spaces. This includes the ISU Planetarium. For more information, please visit the University's Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response web site.

One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure
Recommended for: Preschool - Grade 3. ($60 minimum charge.)
(Available in Spanish)

From China to America, explore the night sky with Sesame Street's Big Bird, Elmo, and their new friend from China, Hu Hu Zhu! This delightful program is full of songs and laughter for children of all ages!


Larry Cat in Space
Recommended for: Preschool - Grade 3.
(Available in Spanish)

Larry Cat in Space is the story of an inquisitive cat who stows away in his owner's baggage and becomes the first cat on the Moon. What problems will Larry encounter ­ first as a weightless cat and then as a lunar lightweight?


The Little Star That Could
Recommended for: Kindergarten - Grade 4.

The Little Star That Could is a charming story about an average yellow star in search of a name and planets of his own to warm and protect. Along the way, he meets other stars, learns what makes each star special, and discovers that stars combine to form star clusters and galaxies.


Cosmic Colors
Recommended for: Grade 3 and up.

Cosmic Colors takes you on a wondrous journey across the electromagnetic spectrum. Discover why the sky is blue and Mars is red. Explore how the human eye works. Then travel deep inside a plant leaf. Along the way, investigate the x-rays radiated by a monstrous black hole. Get ready for an amazing adventure under a rainbow of cosmic light!


Recommended for: Grade 4 and up.

A photon's journey across space, time, and the mind. Narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson, this planetarium show is based on the PBS documentary "Sight – The Story of Vision." Seeing! explores the science, technology, and medicine allowing us to understand how sight works, cure diseases of the eye, and correct vision.


Two Small Pieces of Glass: The Amazing Telescope
Recommended for: Grade 3 and up.

Two Small Pieces of Glass: The Amazing Telescope follows two students as they explore the night sky with an astronomer at a local star party. Along the way, the students learn the history of the telescope from Galileo’s child-like spyglass -- using two small pieces of glass -- to the launch of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the future of astronomy. Geared to engage audiences of all ages, the show explores the wonders discovered by astronomers over the last 400 years.


Recommended for: Grade 3 and up.

Travel back in time to experience the birth of our Sun and solar system. Discover how the Sun came to support life, how it threatens life as we know it, and how the Sun’s energy will one day fade away. Experience our unique star, the Sun, in Sunstruck!


Back To the Moon for Good
Recommended for: Grade 3 and up.

It has been more than forty years since the last American astronaut walked on the Moon. Back to the Moon for Good, narrated by Tim Allen, traces our first steps on the Moon and how lunar exploration benefits us all. The program then explores the wealth of knowledge and resources gained by a return to the Moon, focusing on the Google Lunar XPRIZE – a $30-million prize offered the first non-governmental teams to successfully send robotic missions to the Moon.


From Earth to the Universe
Recommended for: Grade 3 and up.

The night sky, both beautiful and mysterious, has been the subject of campfire stories, ancient myths and awe for as long as there have been people. A desire to comprehend the Universe may well be humanity’s oldest shared intellectual experience. Yet only recently have we truly begun to grasp our place in the vast cosmos.

Now, experience this journey of celestial discovery. Journey from the world of the ancient Greek astronomers to today’s grandest telescopes. Then travel to the various worlds in the Solar System and experience the ferocity of the scorching Sun. From Earth to the Universe then leaves our home system to take you to the colorful birthplaces and burial grounds of stars, and still further out, beyond the Milky Way, to the unimaginable immensity of the Universe.


Planet Nine
Recommended for: Grade 3 and up.

Follow Astronomer Mike Brown and his CalTech team as they discover evidence of a Kuiper Belt object 10 times more massive than Earth, and embark on the search for a new ninth planet far beyond the orbit of Neptune.


Revealing Light's Secrets: The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph
Recommended for: Grade 4 and up.

Revealing Light's Secrets: The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph looks at spectroscopy, the science of light. Discover how scientists study the Universe by deciphering clues hidden in the light from distant objects.

Revealing Light's Secrets highlights the current research of the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (or COS) flying aboard the Hubble Space Telescope, the last instrument installed by the NASA astronauts. The COS gives us an unprecedented view into the vast spaces between galaxies surrounding our own Milky Way.


Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond Our Sun
Recommended for: Grade 4 and up.

Humans have long imagined exotic and intriguing worlds beyond our solar system. However, in recent years, science fiction has become science fact. In Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond Our Sun, discover what our sophisticated telescopes and detection techniques reveal about worlds beyond the eight planets of our Sun.


Cosmic Castaways
Recommended for: Grade 4 and up.

There are places where the night sky has no constellations. No Orion, no Big Dipper, nothing but a few lonely, far away stars and a few faint, ghostly patches of light. Most stars lie within the crowded boundaries of galaxies, travelling with their brothers and sisters in a vast galactic family. However, some stars find themselves on their own, deep within voids between the galaxies. These are the cosmic castaways.


Dark Matter Mystery
Recommended for: Grade 5 and up.

What keeps Galaxies together? What are the building blocks of the Universe? What makes the Universe look the way it looks today? Researchers all around the world try to answer these questions. We know today that approximately a quarter of the Universe is filled with a mysterious glue: Dark Matter. We know that it is out there. However, we have no idea what it is made out of.

This planetarium show takes you on the biggest quest of contemporary astrophysics. You will see why we know that Dark Matter exists, and how this search is one of the most challenging and exciting searches science has to offer. Join the scientists on their hunt for Dark Matter with experiments in space and deep underground. Will they be able to solve dark matter mystery?


Flight Adventures
Recommended for: Grade 3 and up.

Discover the science of flight through the eyes of a young girl and her grandfather as they explore how birds soar and aircraft fly. Learn the history of flight and explore the future of aviation -- including how NASA is discovering new and safer ways to fly.


Life: A Cosmic Story
Recommended for: Grade 4 and up. ($60 minimum charge.)

Life: A Cosmic Story tells the 14-billion-year saga of how we came to be. Narrated by Jodie Foster, it is a journey from the microscopic view inside a plant cell to the vastness of our universe populated by billions of galaxies swirling in space.

Life: A Cosmic Story won the "Best Fulldome Program" category at the 2011 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.


Habitat Earth: Living In a Connected World
Recommended for: Grade 4 and up. ($60 minimum charge.)
(Available in Spanish)

Dive below the ocean's surface to explore the dynamic relationships found in kelp forest ecosystems, travel beneath the forest floor to see how Earth's tallest trees rely on tiny fungi to survive, and journey to new heights to witness the intricate intersection between human and ecological networks.

Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Frances McDormand, this 2015 show from the Morrison Planetarium features stunning visualizations of both biological and human-built networks (and of how they intersect), taking show-goers on an incredible, immersive journey through the interconnectedness of life on Earth.


MUSICA — Why is the Universe Beautiful?
Recommended for: Grade 3 and up.

A flower, the sound of a forest, a sunset, the stars overhead…

A girl is mesmerized by the beauty of Nature and asks, "Why do I sense beauty?"

A quiet pianist who calls himself "Musica" shows her the common elements hiding in both music and Nature. And so begins the endless conversation she has with Musica... and the Universe.


Short Subjects

These full-dome short subjects are included free upon request, following any regular program.

Losing the Dark
Recommended for: Grade 3 and up. (6 min. in length.)

Starry skies are a vanishing treasure because light pollution is washing away our view of the cosmos. It not only threatens astronomy but also disrupts wildlife, and affects human health. The glows over cities and towns — seen so clearly from space — are testament to the billions of dollars spent in wasted energy by lighting up the sky.

Losing the Dark is the result of a collaboration between International Dark Sky Association ( www.darksky.org ) and Loch Ness Productions. It introduces and illustrates some of the issues regarding light pollution and suggests three simple actions people can take to help mitigate it.


Sky Lectures

Sky lectures are live shows covering numerous topics. They may include special effect projectors to enhance the presentations. All sky lectures are about 60 minutes long, the only exception being those for preschoolers. The latter are about 45 minutes in length.


The Sky of Day and Night
Recommended for: Grade 1-4.

Children will be shown how to locate and name the four principal directions by using the Sun during the day and the Big Dipper and the North Star at night. They also will be shown how to identify bright stars, constellations, and any planets visible in the evening sky.


The Sky Tonight
Recommended for: Grades 5 and up.

This program begins with an introduction to the daytime sky. After the Sun sets, an introduction is made to such phenomena as twinkling, stellar magnitudes, and star colors. Various deep space objects will be pointed out and examined. Pupils will receive a star map and be instructed in its use.

Other Programs

Other programs are available upon request. These can be laboratory exercises or related to special topics, such as why we experience seasons.

Planning Your Trip

Reservations -

Special presentations are available to groups throughout most of the academic year Tuesday through Friday between 9:30 am and 4:00 pm. Reservations are required for all group visits during these times. They are available on a first-com-first-served basis and should be made at least two weeks in advance by calling the ISU Planetarium at (309) 438-2496 during regular office hours. Callers should be prepared to give preferred date and time of visit (plus alternatives); number of students attending; program subject or title; and the name, address, and telephone number of the group leader. Please contact the Planetarium immediately if it becomes necessary to cancel reservations.


Admission charge -

The admission charge for school and private presentations is $3.00 per person, with the minimum group fee $45 (some programs are $60). One adult supervisor is admitted free with every 10 children in school or day-care groups. Group leaders should collect the appropriate admission fee from group members in advance and prepare a single check payable to Illinois State University. The check should be given to a Planetarium staff member upon entry. No cash or credit cards are accepted.


Preparation -

A planetarium field trip can be an important teaching tool. The effectiveness of the trip will be related to the amount and quality of preparation and the extent to which the need for the trip grows out of classroom work.


Arrival Times -

Groups should plan on arriving at the planetarium at least 10 minutes before show time, because schedules are tight and cannot be rearranged to accommodate a group that arrives late. It may be necessary for a group to miss part of its program due to late arrival. Those expecting to arrive late should call the Planetarium immediately. Groups not arriving within 15 minutes of their scheduled program time risk having their program cancelled.


Student Behavior -

Classroom behavior is expected from students and teachers during programs. It is suggested that parent supervisors accompany large groups in a ratio of one parent to 10 students. Students should be reminded that classes are in session at Illinois State University throughout the year. Therefore, students are expected to be quiet and reserved when in universtiy buildings. Food and drink, including gum and candy, are not permitted in the Planetarium.


Location -

The ISU Planetarium is located under the white domed roof at the east end of Felmley Hall of Science Annex. Felmley Hall is located on the northeast corner of the ISU campus at the intersection of College Avenue and School Street, in Normal.


Parking -

Car and bus parking at the University is strictly monitored. Cars or buses parked illegally may be ticketed and towed. Groups arriving by car should take advantage of inexpensive parking in the ISU visitor lot, located on Locus Street. Bus drivers should drop off their passengers in front of the Planetarium, on School Street. Afterward, buses should park in ISU Lot S-103, next to the ISU Parking Office on Main Street -- please see the flyer accompanying your program confirmation for the lot's location. Questions about parking should be directed to ISU Parking Services at (309) 438-8391 before arrival on campus.

For more information, please write or call:

Illinois State University Planetarium
Campus Box 4560
Normal, IL 61790-4560
(309) 438-2496


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