AMNH Digital Flight School: Taking over the Hayden Planetarium

by Erika (age 12, @KNEstemGirls)

This past summer, I took over the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History every morning for a week. All of the campers got to use the ridiculously expensive space navigating technology that our schools don’t have the budget for. It was an amazing experience to use all four computer screens and keyboards – navigating and controlling visual effects as we traveled around the universe. We then worked in groups of 2 and 3 to create our own planetarium shows.

My personal grand finale of the camp was a tour through the universe, all the way from Earth to the areas of the Microwave Background Radiation. My partner, Nastassia and I started out by providing a full view of our solar system, the Milky Way, and other galaxies. My favorites places were the Andromeda and Sombrero galaxies, even though we crashed the planetarium when we tried to visit the Sombrero Galaxy (everyone made it out alive, as far as I know).

I really liked this camp because I had a chance to work with technology that most people don’t have access to. I also got to work with and meet new people of all middle school grades. Another bonus was that we got to watch old planetarium shows a few times, to feel the captivating experience. I recommend it for any kid who loves space and is at least a little patient with technology, since we did crash the software a few times :-).


  • Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), fine motor, curiosity
  • Preparation: Pack lunch and a sweater for your child each day (the air conditioning gets chilly)
  • Cost: $550 for one week and $525 for members
  • Time & Energy: It’s an hour drive from our house. The camp runs from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. The Middle School Institutes are also available during school breaks and over the weekend.
  • Contact Info: For more information, see the Digital Flight School page at the American Museum of Natural History site.
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