• Dr. Shannon Schmoll

Planetarian Needs and Opinions around Teaching Climate Change

In November 2021 the planetarium community was surveyed about teaching climate change in their domes. This included asking about their desires to teach climate change in the dome, the barriers they faced, and what support they needed in order to teach this subject. The results of this survey will help guide future work for supporting planetarians in teaching climate change.


Dome Demographics

The survey had 34 respondents total. Note that respondents were able to choose more than one type of institution when appropriate. The respondents represented planetariums in several different contexts including Museums (38%), Schools (35%), Science Centers (34%), Universities (21%), Observatories (6%), and Nature Centers (3%).The respondents primarily represented fixed planetariums at 94% of the respondents, but 23% of respondents also worked with a portable planetariums. Domes with varying seating capacities were also represented and with those with more than 150 seats being the largest group at 31%, those with 101-150 seats were 19%, while those with 76-100, 51-75, and 31-50 were all at 16% each. Domes with less than 30 seats were 3% of respondents.

When asked what percentage of programming planetariums do at different times, the averages for live interactive programming was 48%, outside productions was 45%, and in-house productions was 32%.


Audiences and Climate Change

Of the planetarians surveyed, there was a fairly even split between K-12 audiences and the general public with undergraduate audiences also represented but to a lesser degree. When asked which audiences they would teach climate change to, 76% of respondents said the general public, 67% said they would teach to K-12 audiences, 20% said they would teach to undergraduate students.


Interest in teaching climate change

When asked how interested planetarians were personally in teaching climate change on a scale of 1 to 5 of not interested at all to very interested, a majority of respondents responded with very interested with the average across all respondents being 4.61. No one chose a number below 3.

When asked how interested planetarium host institutions were in teaching climate change content, the response was mixed. A majority of respondents were still very interested, but were also very likely to choose 3. The average across all respondents was 4.06. There was one response below 3.

This suggests that getting buy-in from parent institutions may be a barrier for some in teaching climate change or at least will take some extra work to be able to teach this subject.


Climate Change Content

Respondents were asked about their interest on a scale of 1 (not interested at all) to 5 (very interested) in different types of content and professional development. The average response for each type is:

Mean

Standard Deviation

Variance

Up to Date integrated climate data for your dome

4.12

1.04

1.08

Pre-recorded climate content

4.12

0.88

0.77

Professional development of on climate science

4.26

0.67

0.45

Professional development on data visualization of climate data

4.19

0.86

0.74

Overall, respondents are fairly interested in several areas of content and professional development related to climate change. However, professional development on climate science is the most interesting for planetarians.

Respondents were also asked the importance of different aspects of climate change data when showing it on the dome on a scale of 1(not important at all) to 5 (extremely important). The average response for each was:

Mean

Standard Deviation

Variance

The data is local to my community

3.91

0.88

0.77

There are interactive modules

3.5

1.22

1.5

The data is up to date

4.06

0.67

0.45

The data is plug and play

3.34

1.13

1.29

The data is editable

3.29

1.25

1.56

Overall, the two most important aspects of data for planetarians is that the data is up to date and local to the community.

Respondents were asked about comfort levels related to different aspects of teaching climate change on a scale of 1 (not comfortable at all) to 4 (very comfortable). The results are:

Mean

Standard Deviation

Variance

Teaching content outside of astronomy

3.22

0.74

0.55

Teaching topics that the public may find controversial

2.91

2.91

0.76

Teaching about the local impacts of climate change

3.22

0.74

0.55

Showing pre-recorded climate change content

3.34

0.73

0.54

Developing climate change content for your dome

2.72

1.01

1.01

Teaching climate change content in a live and interactive format

3.09

0.8

0.65

Teaching about actions the public can take regarding climate change

3.06

0.81

0.66

Using climate data for live programming in your dome

2.81

0.93

0.87

Collaborating with community partners to co-develop planetarium programming

3.03

0.88

0.78

Overall, planetarians surveyed are fairly comfortable with most aspects of teaching climate change. They are most comfortable with showing pre-recorded content on their dome. Planetarians surveyed are also comfortable with teaching content outside of astronomy and the local impacts of climate change. They are least comfortable with developing climate change content for their domes.

Those surveyed were also asked about what resources planetarians already use for their domes, and allowed more than one answer and what they would want. This is summarized in the following table and respondents could choose more than one answer.

Resources

Already Use

Want to Use

Pre-recorded Planetarium Shows

62%

68%

Hands on activities

26%

50%

Online videos

41%

41%

Standards aligned lesson plans

24%

38%

Science on a Sphere data

21%

24%

Other fulldome visualizations using global climate data

35%

74%

Other fulldome visualizations using local climate data

18%

68%

Professional development resources (e.g. videos, articles, podcasts, etc)

15%

65%

Professional development workshops

18%

71%

Other

9%

3%

Overall pre-recorded shows are mostly commonly used by planetariums and is also tied for third at one of the top resources people would also like. The top three most desired resources were “Other fulldome visualizations using global climate data", professional development workshops, and “other fulldome visualizations using local climate data.” These are also far less likely to be used already by planetarians at 35%, 15%, and 18% respectively. This means that lack of existing use combined with high desire makes these good targets for future work when it comes to teaching climate change in the dome.

When asked for other comments, it was noted that some have little budget for professional development and content, so free and inexpensive materials would be best. Others shared that they thought this was important work for planetarians.