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School Field Trips – Grades 3 and Above

DYER OBSERVATORY IS CLOSED ANNUALLY DECEMBER-FEBRUARY.
OUR SCHOOL FIELD TRIP PROGRAM RESUMES EACH MARCH.

One of the Observatory’s missions is to interest students in the exciting career fields of science and engineering.  Locally, hundreds of children are thrilled as the see the Sun, Moon, planets and stars firsthand during visits to Dyer Observatory. The latest math and science report card shows that students in the United States are still well behind their counterparts in many Asian and European nations. Our goal is to turn these standings around by helping to inspire student interest in science and astronomy, and Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory is a great way for teachers to supplement their Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and astronomy curriculum. The observatory is open to public, private, and home-schooled children.

Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory is a wonderful place to bring students for a weekday, daytime field trip from March through November. We can tailor a program which enhances the science/astronomy curriculum in a number of ways. Students can listen to an astronomy expert talk about various subjects followed by a question and answer session; they can tour the observatory’s dome and main telescope, participate in viewing the Sun with the solar telescope, weather-permitting, and/or visit the recently-built Star Chamber, weather permitting.

Dyer Observatory has constructed activities that not only educate students about astronomy and space science but also meet many of the Tennessee science education standards set by the Tennessee Department of Education. Below you will find descriptions and time requirements for the activities that we offer for school field trips, a downloadable PDF that lists the science education standards met by each activity, and an online submission form to request a field trip to Dyer Observatory.

Please keep in mind the following items when planning your field trip:

  • A field trip lasts approximately 1 to 1.5 hours. There is a $5 fee per student and $5 fee per teacher/parent/chaperone.
  • Observatory field trips are for 3rd grade and above.
  • The minimum group size is 15 and the maximum number of people is 40.
  • For the safety of all observatory guests, close-toed footwear must be worn.
  • Vehicles larger than a standard-size school bus will not fit through the gate.
  • There are approximately 20 steps leading up the to Seyfert Telescope.
  • Dyer Observatory is closed to the public from December through February. School Field trips can be scheduled during the remaining school months.

Not able to bring your class to Dyer? No problem. We offer exciting outreach programming, assemblies, and family science encounters at schools throughout the Middle TN region.  Please follow the link if your school would like to request a visit by the Fisk-Vanderbilt Planetarium Roadshow https://my.vanderbilt.edu/planetarium/


Available Field Trip Program Activities

Solar Observation (Weather Permitting)
30 mins

 

Observe the Sun through solar glasses as well as our hydrogen-alpha solar telescope to see the solar chromosphere, sunspots, prominences, and filaments.  Students will also be shown a live view of the Sun beforehand and the Sun’s observable features will be discussed.  Images and movies from space-based solar observatories showing solar and solar-related activity will also be presented with narration.  If numerous sunspots are visible, we can also set up a white-light solar telescope for detailed sunspot observations.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 3 Embedded Technology & Engineering
Standard 6 – The Universe
Standard 10 – Energy
Standard 12 – Forces of Nature
Grade 4 Standard 6 – The Universe
Standard 10 – Energy
Standard 12 – Forces of Nature
Grade 5 Standard 10 – Energy
Grade 6 Standard 6 – The Universe
Grade 8 Standard 12 – Forces of Nature
High School Chemistry II: Standard 1: Structure of Matter
Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Earth Science: Standard 2 – Energy in the Earth System
Physical World Concepts: Standard 3 – Waves and Optics
Physical World Concepts: Standard 4 – Electricity and Magnetism
Physics Standard 3 – Waves
Physics Standard 4 – Optics
Physical Science: Standard 2 – Energy
The Star Chamber (Weather Permitting)
30 mins

 

Visit Dyer Observatory’s land sculpture The Star Chamber, a walk-in camera obscura (pinhole camera).  Students will observe images of the surrounding trees and sky as they are projected onto the floor and walls of the Star Chamber via a small hole at the center of the Chamber’s dome.  While there, students will learn about the analemma, why we have seasons, and why the Sun’s position with respect to the horizon changes over the year.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 4 Standard 6 – The Universe
Standard 11 – Motion
Grade 6 Standard 6 – The Universe
High School Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Physical World Concepts: Standard 3 – Waves and Optics
Physics Standard 3 – Waves
Physics Standard 4 – Optics
Physical Science: Standard 2 – Energy
Sundials
30 mins

 

Using Dyer Observatory’s Sundial Garden and Solstice/Equinox Stones of the Star Chamber, we will demonstrate how and why time can be determined by the position of the Sun. In addition, students will construct basic sundials on their own using a paper template.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 4 Standard 6 – The Universe
Grade 6 Standard 6 – The Universe
High School Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Telescope Types & Tour of Dyer Telescopes (telescopes are not wheelchair-accessible)
45 mins

 

Dyer Observatory has four telescope installations, three of which are mounted in domes on top of the observatory and are still actively used for observation.  Students will first tour Dyer’s largest telescope, the Seyfert Telescope, and gain an understanding of its history, how it functions, how it compares to other observatory telescopes, and what it has been used to observe and study.  Students will then move to the DeWitt Telescope, the smallest and oldest telescope still in use. The astronomer will make use of the telescope’s “open-truss” design to better show students how the instrument is able to gather and focus light to form an image.  Next, we will move to our 14″ robotic telescope, the Bergquist Telescope, which has been modified to be accessible over the Internet.  We will log in to the telescope to show students how computerized telescopes are able to locate objects at the push of a button.  Finally, we will move to the Dyer residence to see the Cooke Telescope, Vanderbilt University’s original telescope.  We will explain how this telescope is different from the others housed at Dyer as well as what role it has played in shaping the history of how we view the universe.  As of July 2014 the Cooke Telescope has been moved to main campus for a year as a part of a library exhibit, and the Bergquist Telescope is currently under maintenance.  As a result, these two telescopes are not part of the Telescopes Tour until further notice.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 3 Embedded Technology & Engineering
Grade 4 Standard 10 – Energy
High School Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Physical World Concepts: Standard 3 – Waves and Optics
Physical World Concepts: Standard 4 – Electricity and Magnetism
Physics Standard 3 – Waves
Physics Standard 4 – Optics
Physical Science: Standard 2 – Energy
Meteorite Collection Visit
10 mins

 

Dyer Observatory has a collection of nickel-iron and stony-iron meteorites as well as a number of tektites on display.  Students will observe the collection while our astronomer provides an explanation of how meteorites form, what the differences are in various types of meteorites, and how tektites form.  Students will also be given the opportunity to hold some of these 4.5 billion-year-old objects.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 3 Standard 7 – The earth
Grade 5 Standard 10 – Energy
High School Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Earth Science Standard 2 – Energy in the Earth System
Large-Print Hubble Image Tour
15 mins

 

Dyer Observatory has five large-print images from the Hubble Space Telescope as well as a large-print image of the telescope itself.  Our astronomer will provide explanations of what the images show, what we can learn from them, and how all of the images are ultimately related to one another.  Afterwards, students will move to the library to see our 1/5th-scale model of the Hubble Space Telescope, which is on extended loan from the Space Telescope Science Institute.  The astronomer will provide details about Hubble such as its actual size, orbital parameters, and capabilities.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 6 Standard 6 – The Universe
High School Chemistry II – Standard 2 – States of Matter
Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Physical World Concepts: Standard 3 – Waves and Optics
Physics Standard 4 – Optics
Telescopic Observation of Venus (Weather and Venus Permitting)
20 mins

 

We can use the Seyfert Telescope to view Venus if it is far enough from the Sun to be viewed safely.  This gives students an opportunity to see that some of other planets go through phases like the Moon.  We will also discuss what causes the phases and why this phenomenon was used as evidence that the Sun is actually the center of the solar system rather than the Earth.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 3 Standard 6 – The Universe
Grade 4 Standard 6 – The Universe
High School Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Sizes and Scales Talk
30 mins

 

We will present a PowerPoint slideshow about the relative sizes of the planets in our solar system and also compare them to the Sun.  We will then compare the Sun to other stars and then compare other celestial objects, like nebulae and galaxies, to one another.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 3 Standard 6 – The Universe
Grade 5 Standard 6 – The Universe
Grade 6 Standard 6 – The Universe
High School Chemistry II – Standard 2 – States of Matter
Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Physical Science Standard 4 – Forces in Nature
Planet Walk (Weather Permitting)
45 mins

 

Students will walk-off a scale model of the solar system in which the Sun is represented by an 8″ ball.  As we walk to each planet, students are shown the scaled planet size while we discuss various aspects of the body, such as structure, number of moons, rings, etc.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 3 Standard 6 – The Universe
Grade 5 Standard 6 – The Universe
Standard 12 – Forces of Nature
Grade 6 Standard 6 – The Universe
Grade 8 Standard 12 – Forces of Nature
High School Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Spectroscopy Talk and Demo
45 mins

 

We present a PowerPoint presentation about the electromagnetic spectrum and how atoms and molecules produce their own colors of light.  We will discuss how these unique sets of colors can be used to determine aspects of celestial objects, such as composition, temperature, and velocity.  To give a more hands-on approach to atomic spectra, we will use spectral discharge tubes to show examples of how various elements will produce their own “fingerprint” of colors.  This activity highly benefits from incorporating the “Solar Observation” activity into the program.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 8 Standard 9 – Matter
High School Chemistry I: Standard 1- Atomic Structure
Earth Science: Standard 1 – The Universe
Physical World Concepts: Standard 3 – Waves and Optics
Physical World Concepts: Standard 5 – Nuclear Science
Physics Standard 3 – Waves, Physics Standard 4 – Optics
Physical Science: Standard 2 – Energy
Finding Things in the Night Sky / Star Wheels
45 mins

 

Using the planetarium software Stellarium, we will discuss how objects in the sky move with respect to one’s location.  We will also discuss how to find certain objects such as planets and constellations.  Students will also construct their own star wheels with provided paper and be instructed on how to use them to find celestial objects on their own.

Grade Science Standards Met
Grade 4 Standard 11 – Motion
Grade 5 Standard 6 – The Universe


Click the following links to download a PDF and Excel spreadsheet of the above information:
Field Trip Programming at Dyer PDF Field Trip Programming at Dyer Excel Spreadsheet


Request to Schedule a Field Trip

If you would like to request a field trip visit to Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory, please fill out the information on the form below and select the activities you would like to have the Dyer Observatory astronomer do with your students.