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  • An Exciting and Inspiring Place to Visit!

    The South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre was established to provide a facility where people of all ages could learn about science in a very visual and exciting way. Since opening in 2001, the Planetarium has hosted visits by around 10,000 children of school age every year. Through its colourful displays, demonstrations and presentations in the main auditorium, young people are introduced to the awe and wonder of the universe around us and are inspired to want to learn more.

    The Planetarium is an educational charity managed and operated by a large team of volunteers and enthusiasts, who have a passion for science and education and believe that learning should be fun! This enthusiasm is clearly infectious because many of our school groups and individual visitors come back to us time and time again.

    The effective teaching of astronomy involves viewing the night sky, but to take students "star-gazing" is often impractical for many reasons. A Planetarium brings the night sky to the students. It makes clear many of the basic aspects of astronomy and space science in an exciting and effective way.

    While some planetaria place the emphasis on pure entertainment, the South Downs Planetarium focuses mainly on learning and is available for school visits.

    The Presentations complement school studies in work for:
    National Curriculum Key Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4
    GCSE Astronomy
    General Studies, including environmental science
    Physics at AS and A2 level

    Presentations can also be made to suit specific requirements. For example, for older students, topics such as life on other planets, the birth, life and death of stars, galaxies, the Big Bang and the expanding universe may be covered.

    Each presentation, given by an experienced lecturer, is of about 50 minutes' duration, followed by a question and answer session.

  • Planning your visit

    We recognise that school visits must always be cost effective, especially so in the current economic climate, and need careful planning to achieve this. It may be for example that it is cheaper to use mini buses or parents' cars rather than to hire a large coach. Normally you will have the Planetarium to yourself but for smaller school groups it may be possible to combine more than one into the same session. In addition if your school is near to a bus route or railway station did you know that operators are willing and often able to make special arrangements to meet your needs? This might include running an additional vehicle on a scheduled bus route at a time agreed by prior arrangement. Such options may well be cheaper than coach hire. The following are the relevant contact details for the companies who will be pleased to discuss your specific requirements for group bookings on scheduled services. Please be sure to allow at least one week's notice ahead of your travel date.

    Bus - Stagecoach: 08451210190

    Train - Southern Rail: 08451272920

    The Visit

    Most school visits last between two and three hours. A typical visit will include a show in the main auditorium followed by questions afterwards, plus a number of additional activities, which will be tailored to the requirements of the individual school, and the total time available for the visit. All shows have a live presenter, enabling plenty of interaction with the children.

    The auditorium can accommodate up to 96 adults/children, plus there are four additional spaces for wheelchairs. Some schools bring an entire year group at a time; larger schools may require more than one visit, while smaller schools bring two year groups at a time.

    Schools coming from some distance can bring a snack or packed lunch to eat during their visit, but please arrange and agree this with the Planetarium in advance.

  • Every child will take home a colourful three-fold flyer commemorating their trip to the Planetarium, and a teachers' pack, list of helpful educational resources and an evaluation form will be given to the lead teacher of every group at the end of the visit.

    Costs

    As of May 2014, the cost of a Planetarium visit is £4.50 per child, teachers and helpers free of charge, but West Sussex LEA schools enjoy a discount of 50p per child on the normal admission price.

    How to Book

    The easiest way to book your Planetarium visit is to telephone us during office hours (9 am to 4 pm) on weekdays and ask to speak to our General Manager, Andrew Copping, who will also be able to answer any queries you may have.

    The Planetarium's telephone number is 01243 774400.

    You can also send us an email on sdownsplanet@btconnect.com, but do please provide us with a contact telephone number.

    We look forward to meeting you and your school group during the coming academic year.