A Brief History of Planetarium Activities for Successful Shows (PASS)
M104 image by Mike Ford
M104 image by Mike Ford

Holt Planetarium at Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS), UC Berkeley was built in 1973 and its first Director was Alan Friedman. After 5 years of developing planetarium shows in a novel audience participation style, LHS held five National Science Foundation-funded workshops in the summer of 1978 with 100 planetarium educators from around the nation to promote audience-participatory programs. The project was called POP (Participatory Oriented Planetariums), and a publication, Planetarium Educators Workshop Guide (IPS Special Report #10) was produced and distributed to all the members of the International Planetarium Society as part of their membership privileges.

In the years 1989-94, we received National Science Foundation funding to conduct 6 Summer Institutes in Astronomy and Space Science Education for Elementary and Middle Schools (POPS--Participatory Oriented Planetariums for Schools), with 25 participants in each, for a total of 150 participants.  For the  participants/graduates of those institutes who conduct in-service workshops in their school districts, we expanded Planetarium Educators Workshop Guide into a series of 12 volumes - Planetarium Activities for Student Success (PASS). Learning Technologies, Inc. (LTI)  supported these institutes by contribution of Starlab portable planetariums to LHS and by providing funds for the first run of printing of the PASS series. Because the audience participation techniques work in both public shows and school shows, the name PASS was changed to Planetarium Activities for Successful Shows.

In each PASS planetarium show, visitors participate in observations, experiments, and discussion in order to experience science as exciting, understandable, and to leave with feelings of accomplishment. Eight of the original twelve PASS volumes have complete planetarium programs and related classroom activities.  New programs are added as development funding becomes available. In 1999, the planetarium program Northern Lights, was added as a result of work by Franck Pettersen of Tromso, Norway who worked with PASS staff while he was on a year sabbatical. NASA funding allowed us to add two more shows:  Our Very Own Star (2007)and Strange Planets (2009). 

With the advent and widespread proliferation of digital planetariums at the beginning of this millennium, we found that the audience participation principle is as valuable as ever.  PASS has established legal agreements with three planetarium manufacturers to provide or offer all of our PASS shows with purchase of their planetarium systems.  Each show is being adapted for each planetarium system for maximum ease of presentation by users. This is a huge step forward for the PASS project in its goal to promote audience participation in the planetarium world and we seek to establish more such agreements with other planetarium manufacturers.

Titles and descriptions of all the PASS shows may be found under "Shows" on the PASS website - http://www.planetarium-activities.org/

Comments