Grades 6 – 8

We welcome your class to the planetarium. Our shows are live, interactive, and can be adjusted to meet different needs.

To reserve a program, submit a Request Form at least 2 weeks in advance of your visit.

The planetarium program costs $75 for 60 minutes and up to 68 students. You experience a live presentation that includes one of the show topics below and a tour of the night sky featuring the constellations and their stories. For an additional $50, extend your visit with activities.

Show Topics

Solar System Expedition
Explore the solar system and marvel at the Sun’s powerful flares, Jupiter’s swirling storms, and Saturn’s intriguing moons. Travel to the icy worlds of the Kuiper Belt and behold the latest discoveries from Juno and New Horizons. Return to Earth to gaze at the night sky as you search for constellations from the Big Dipper to Orion.
WI Standards for Science SCI.PS2.A.3, SCI.ESS1.A.5, SCI.ESS1.B.5

Lunar Light
Explore our nearest neighbor, the Moon, and discover what causes its phases and lunar and solar eclipses. Hear about missions to the Moon, including the first manned mission in 1969. Gaze at the Moon, planets, and stars during the stargazing portion of the show.
WI Standards for Science SCI.ESS1.B.5

The Dramatic Life of a Star
Marvel at the dramatic changes of stars as they transform from stellar nurseries to exotic objects such as white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. Discover how stars fused the chemical elements in our bodies. Gaze at the night sky away from city lights and witness how stars vary in brightness and colors.

Astronomical Wonders
Explore the cosmos on this whirlwind journey from the solar system to the farthest corners of the universe. Tour thrilling highlights of our own solar system, such as solar storms and the rings of Saturn, before heading out to visit stars and exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy. Behold the Milky Way on a collision course with its neighbor Andromeda as you travel into the depths of space to glimpse our universe in its infancy. 


Optional activities last 20 minutes and cost $50 per activity.

Solar System to Scale (Limit: 22 students)
Students are divided into groups to make a scale model of the solar system along the length of an indoor hallway. Students receive instructions about how many tiles they need between various planets. If your group is 23-44 students, you may split them between two back-to-back activity sessions for a total of 40 minutes for $100.

Star Charts (Limit: 68 students)
Students learn to use star charts to identify 6-10 constellations in the sky.

Preparing For Your Visit

We recommend introducing grade-appropriate astronomy topics before visiting the planetarium. This might range from basic constellations for younger students to atomic structures and the electromagnetic spectrum for older students. Any exposure will help your students engage more at the planetarium. See the Resource Materials section below.


Students may eat their own lunch in the cafeteria on the ground level of the UWM Union, a short walk east of the planetarium. Students are welcome to eat lunch outdoors, weather permitting.

Resource Materials

Find activities, videos, readings, and other resource materials for your class.

Learning Activities

Theme One: Astronomical (Celestial) Objects in the Day and Night Sky

  1. The Sun is the closest star to us

Activity: Solar images
Activity: Solar Image Activity (Grade 8)
Video: Space school
Video: Windows to the Universe clips about the sun (Grade 8)
Video: Bill Nye The Science Guy on the Sun
Images: Views of The Solar System (Image in middle of page)
Images: Universe Today diagram of the Sun (Grade 8)

  1. Moon is the Earth’s only natural satellite

Activity: NASA Impact Craters (Page 61 activity, G5-12 downloadable guide with activities on exploring the Moon)
Website: Moon phase calendar

  1. Stars are big balls of gas that make their own light

Website: Windows to the Universe slideshow tour

  1. Planets (the Earth is a planet) go around stars and in our solar system they have to be big enough to form a spherical shape rather than a potato shape

Website: NASA Interactive simulation concerning gravity and orbits
Website: Windows to the Universe information on the planets

  1. Meteors or shooting stars or falling stars are brief luminous trails observed when a small piece of rock from space enters the Earth’s upper atmosphere

Website: Meteor shower calendar

  1. Galaxies are large groups of stars (typically 100 billion) held together by their mutual gravitational attraction

Website: Windows to the Universe information for teachers
Images: Hubble Image gallery

Theme Two: The Solar System

  1. Overview of the solar system: 1 star, 8 planets, and many small objects in it

Activity: Students work in groups and try to recall all the information they can about the Sun and the planets; they write one fact/property/idea on a post it and put it on the appropriate poster; each group is assigned a poster to organize its facts into categories of correct, incorrect, uncertain statements for their assigned poster. For older students, they can discuss how they would check the uncertain statements. Also, we connected these properties to how the solar system formed.
Website: Kids Astronomy: Our Solar System (Grade 6)

  1. Characteristics/properties of different planets. How do we know the physical properties of a planet?

Website: NASA information on planet
Video:; Kingdoms of the Giants
Video:; Mars Through The Eyes of Spirit

  1. Special objects such as Asteroids, Comets, Kuiper Belt objects, Oort Cloud, Dwarf Planets (such as Pluto) (Grade 5)

Website: Kuiper Belt objects and outer planets
Website: NASA information on comets
Website: NASA; Space Rocks (self-guided website on comets, meteors, and asteroids)

  1. Formation of the Solar System

Website: Information on the formation of the solar system

Theme Three: Earth/Moon/Sun Interactions

  1. Rotation of the Earth: Evidence from Seasonal Constellations

Website: Explore a model of Earth’s daily rotation
Website: Evidence that Earth turns on an axis
Video: Earth moves in a helical motion around the Sun as it travels through our galaxy (for teachers)

  1. Rotation of the Earth: Evidence from Seasonal Constellations

Website: Earth revolves around the Sun

  1. Gravity

Activity: NASA: How orbits work
Activity: NASA: What is gravity?

  1. Tides

Website: Information on tides (left side of screen)

  1. Eclipses

Video: Partial solar eclipse January 2011
Video: Total solar eclipse

  1. Phases of the Moon

Activity: Lunar Lollipops
Activity: NASA: Phases of the Moon

  1. Seasons

Activity: Lesson from MN Science Teacher Education Project
Activity: Students explore the shadows of a toothpick projected on a manila folder when a flashlight moves: Stick a toothpick into a 1″ square piece of Styrofoam. Stick the Styrofoam on the manila folder. Project the flashlight onto the toothpick. Students notice that the direction and length of shadow move. They find they can reproduce those changes even if the Sun stays stationary and the folder moves.

  1. Historical perspective: geocentric/heliocentric

Video: Geocentric and heliocentric theories

  1. Aurora Borealis

Website: Auroras: Mysterious Lights in The Sky
Website: Auroras: Paintings in the Sky
Video: Time lapse view of Earth from the International Space Station

  1. Solar Flares

Website: Multimedia NASA presentation on Solar Storms (under Monday “Learn about the Sun as a star,” Tuesday – “Drawing sunspots from an image”)

  1. Climate, weather, etc.

Activity: NASA Green house gases with gummies (bottom of page)

Theme Four: Constellations

  1. Modern 88 official constellations, Seasonal versus Circumpolar constellations, and some basic constellations

Activity: Graphing constellation coordinates from Texas Space Grant (PDF)
Activity: Modeling the night sky: Zodiac constellations (PDF) (Grade 6)
Activity: The Sun is a yellow Styrofoam ball in the middle of the Planetarium. The teacher is the Earth going around the Sun and the students are the stars twinkling. As the teacher moves around the Sun, he/she could see the constellations away from the Sun only.
Website: Movement of constellations across the sky
Website: Windows to the Universe information on circumpolar constellations
Website: Windows to the Universe information and multimedia on constellations

  1. Sky maps and stargazing

Activity: Sky Maps (Look at the top of the page for the free downloads)
Video: Star Map

Theme Five: Life of a Star

  1. How do stars live?

Website: NASA: Summary of life of a star
Website: How stars live (Grade 8) (see sections on bottom)

  1. Stellar corpses

Website: Windows to the Universe information on black holes
Website: Information from Hubble on black holes

  1. HR diagram

Activity: Jewels of the Night
Website: Overview of HR Diagram (Grade 8)

Theme Six: Forces and Physical Properties

  1. Gravity

Activity: 4 lessons from GRACE

  1. Inertia

Video: Newton’s Law of Inertia
Video: Newton’s Laws of Motion: The Law of Inertia

Theme Seven: Space Exploration

Activity: Rocket building (PDF)
Video: (Go to Search tab and type in “Mars through the Eyes of Spirit”)

Theme Eight: Big Bang Theory and Cosmology

Website: NASA Information on evidence for Big Bang (Grade 8)
Video: Before Time and Space (Description of the Big Bang from National Geographic)

Theme Nine: Exoplanets

Website: LASP overview of detection methods
Website: Notable Discoveries from Kepler (Grade 8)

Theme Ten: Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Video: Carl Sagan on the search for extraterrestrial life
Video: Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Series (Excellent)

Theme Eleven: Electromagnetic Spectrum

Website: Observatories across the EM spectrum
Website: Cool Cosmos
Video: NASA tour of EM Spectrum
Video: NASA Infrared Spectrum


  • What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees, Nancy Tafuri
  • The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System, Joanna Cole
  • The Magic School Bus Space Explorers, Joanna Cole
  • The Solar System, Cathy Imhoff
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd, Jeanette Winter
  • The Usborne Internet-Linked Book of Astronomy and Space, Lisa Miles and Alastair Smith
  • Black Holes and Other Space Phenomena, Young Observer
  • Nature Activities Star Gazer, Ben Morgan
  • 1000 Facts About Space, Pam Beasant