This all started when Eric brought an old 8 section, 10 foot diameter fiberglass satellite dish back to Seattle from his property in California. Eric was an astronomy & physics teacher with a fondness for planetariums since he was a kid, and his astronomy students frequently used the University of Washington's planetarium to show presentations they'd made. He had a half-baked idea that maybe this old dish could be installed in his classroom...maybe hanging from the ceiling? He & Dan put it together in his classroom, but it best fit with its battom on a counter, leaning out over the counter and classroom at about a thirty degree angle, and supported near the top (very safely) by a robust girder installed for hanging heavy things.
This turned out to be rather amazing. It looked beautiful. Overhead is not an easy place to view a presentation, but this position was immense, immersive, easy to project onto, and easy to view. Better as a teaching tool than an inflatable planetarium, better than arranging at best a couple field trips to the University, better than the flat screen for the regular classroom projection system.
After lugging that original dish around to a number of light shows, Dan suggested during a brainstorming session that a similar shaped dish could be built from tent technology. 8 months later, and a lot of help from tent folks and theater folks, and the SkyDome moved beyond prototyping!
Dan Pickard and Eric Muhs together share about 50 years of classroom teaching experience and have won numerous awards for teaching excellence. In their view, the best kind of teaching, and the best science experiences for students, occur when students have opportunities to dig deep into projects which develop multiple skill sets as they collaborate and share ideas.
If you had a usable planetarium in your classroom, one you could use for 20 minutes 3 times a week, what could your students create and present?
SkyDome portable planetarium