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Interactive Water Resources Programs for Planetariums in Minnesota

Author: Sally Brummel, Bell Museum

Abstract: Water flows out of Minnesota in three directions and our personal and public choices have impacts far beyond our borders. Understanding these impacts from a local to global perspective is necessary in order to address Minnesota's water challenges of the present and future.

The Bell Museum and statewide partners have created planetarium and online education programs on water resources to be featured at eight planetariums and schools throughout Minnesota. The Minnesota Water Stories planetarium program is uniquely designed as an interactive and audience participatory experience tailored to the water stories relevant to each region. The production team combined media, satellite data, and science results in these live presentations to support a statewide dialogue around water. Using compelling original stories, presenters guide citizens through a visual experience that transports them from outer space to bodies of water around the state. The objectives are to have audience members and planetarium professionals develop an understanding of relationships of water-related ecological issues to larger systems (e.g., the cosmic, global, regional, and local impacts), and build relationships with community partners around solutions to these challenges.

This three-year project was funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which included pilot programs and formative and summative assessment by the University of Minnesota Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI). The program was planned to debut in the Bell Museum's Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium and planetariums around the state in spring 2020, but closures due to the pandemic required a change in the project's scope and end date. At the time of this submission, the production team is developing online programming based on the planetarium production narrative and assets, and continue to work on the planetarium show to be ready once theaters can open again.