Presentations & Activities

Interactive SPOT presentations utilize slides, videos, animations and an inquisitive approach to relay the excitement of new discoveries! Green Bank Observatory and NASA research along with careers located in West Virginia are highlighted in each show.

Presentations can be held in a classroom or assembly setting. A screen or blank wall and an electrical outlet are necessary for all presentations. Schools/ organizations may need to also provide projectors and/or audio speakers, though these items can be acquired if we know they will not be available at the location of the presentation in advance.

Each show lasts approximately 45 minutes, with optional hands-on activities that require more time.

You can also bring your students to us! Receive presentations and activities at any of our participating colleges or universities! These campuses also offer a planetarium show:

  • West Virginia University

  • Marshall University

  • WV Wesleyan College

Ask about the option to receive a presentation virtually through Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts.

We developed K-3 specific presentations for many of our presentations!

Talk to us at or include your needs in your request submission!

Feature Presentations

The Star of Our World

K-8 and 9-12 versions.

Describes the relationship between the Sun and our planet beyond night and day. Younger audiences learn why we have seasons, how the Sun affects weather on Earth and in space, and how the Sun emits light invisible to us like radio waves and UV waves. Older audiences discuss the Sun's magnetic field and explore the world of nuclear fusion inside a star's core. Discover the research occurring in facilities across West Virginia to uncover more about the star that fuels our world!

Find out about WVU professor, Dr. Weichao Tu's, plasma physics research here!

NGSS Connections:

PS3D: Sunlight warms Earth's surface and energy can be "produced", "used", or "released" by converting stored energy. Plants capture energy from sunlight, which can later be used as fuel or food.

Climate Change in the Mountain State

K-3 and 4-12 versions.

Journey through Earth’s atmosphere to understand how greenhouse gases keep Earth warm like a cozy blanket. How do greenhouse gases affect the temperature, water cycle, and weather? Is the Earth warmer than usual now? What is the evidence? Learn about the pros and cons of climate change in West Virginia. Practice talking about it and become empowered to take action.

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas:

  • MS-ESS2-4: Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.

  • MS-ESS2-2: Earth's Materials and Systems. The planet's systems interact over scales that range from microscopic to global in size, and they operate over fractions of a second to billions of years. These interactions have shaped Earth's history and will determine its future.

  • MS-ESS2-6 Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

  • ESS3.D: Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth's mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering, capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

  • ESS2.D (HS-ESS3-6): Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:

  • Patterns, Cause & Effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

  • Influence of Science, Engineering, and Technology on Society and the Natural World.

  • Science Addresses Questions about the Natural and Material World: Many decisions are not made using science alone, but rely on social and cultural contexts to resolve issues (HS-ESS3-2)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices: Analyze and Interpret data. Asking Questions and Defining Problems.

Past Presentations

Can still be requested!

The Invisible Universe 2.0

K-3, 4-8, and 9-12 versions.

Explores what scientists have learned about the universe by catching and analyzing invisible radio waves from space. Find out how Jocelyn Bell's historic discovery of pulses in her radio data revealed a new type of star called a pulsar. Discover how WVU professor, Duncan Lorimer, revealed a new type of mysterious radio signal called Fast Radio Bursts! What causes these bursts? Where do they come from? Join in the excitement as astronomers around the world try to learn more!

Learn more about the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC)

NGSS and Common Core Standard Connections:

  • PS4B: Electromagnetic Radiation: Learn about an invisible form of radiation called radio waves.

  • NGSS MS-ESS1 Earth’s Place in the Universe, Science and Engineering Practices – Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions – Use multiple sources of evidence. Radio astronomy data and theories of the life cycle of stars are used to construct an explanation for how pulsars create signals that are detected on Earth

  • Disciplinary Core Ideas –ESS1.A: The Universe and its Stars – Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe. Jupiter, the Milky Way, and distant galaxies are used as examples of objects in the universe that can be studied with radio waves

  • Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns: Patterns can be used to identity cause-and-effect relationships (MS-ESS1-1). Pulsar detection patterns and changes in those patterns can help us detect gravitational waves

  • Crosscutting Concepts: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology. Radio telescopes have led to important discoveries - including pulsars, fast radio bursts, and potentially gravitational waves – and continue to be important engineering/technological tools for learning about the universe

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4: Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics. Learn new vocabulary and concepts related to radio astronomy, pulsars, and gravitational waves

How to Make a Planet... with Life!

Best for middle school audiences and above.

Discusses what’s out there in space? What is everything made of? How do we know? This presentation explores how stars make atoms, how those atoms combine into molecules, and how molecules are recycled back into new stars, and even planets! Learn how every thing, even YOU, is made of star stuff!

NGSS Connections:

  • PS1A: The fact that matter is composed of atoms and molecules can be used to explain the properties of substances of matter, phase changes, and conservation of matter.

  • ESS1.A: Light spectra from stars are used to determine their characteristics, processes, and life cycles. Solar activity creates the elements through nuclear fusion. The development of technologies has provided astronomical data that provide empirical evidence for the Big Bang theory.

Journey to Mars

Best for elementary audiences and above.

Journey through the successes and challenges of Mars missions that paved the way for current missions like the Perseverance Rover! Find out how West Virginia Scientist play a huge role in these missions and discover what the future may hold, including extreme sports only possible on Mars. This SPOT presentation tells the story of human curiosity and is an exciting adventure for all audiences.


  • Students will learn about the history of Mars: when it was discovered, how it got its name, and why people became so curious about it.

  • Students will be able to identify different Orbiters, Landers, and Rovers

  • Students will be able to explain why Mars is red

  • Students will identify similarities and differences between Mars and Earth

Water: The Source of Life

Best for middle school audiences and above.

Emphasizes all the ways in which we utilize freshwater and the importance of maintaining clean sources of water. West Virginia is home to over 32,000 miles of stream, and pollutants we put into these streams ultimately impact the drinking water for millions of people across the United States of America. How much freshwater exists on planet earth? How many miles of stream in West Virginia have been impacted by various pollutants? Can we remedy polluted waterways? Why is it important for us to clean up and maintain freshwater sources? Learn the answers to all these questions and discover the importance of West Virginia water with this presentation!

NGSS Connections:

  • ESS2.CMost of Earth's water is in the ocean and much of Earth's freshwater is in glaciers or underground.

  • S.2.GS.11: Obtain information to identify where water is found on Earth and that it can be solid or liquid.

  • S.5.GS.8: Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.

  • S.5.GS.9: Describe and graph the amounts and percentages of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.

  • S.5.GS.10: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.

  • S.8.ESS.1: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

  • S.HS.ENV.6: Explain how technology has influenced the sustainability of natural resources over time.

  • S.HS.ENV.18: Identify sources, uses, quality, conservation, and global distribution of water.

  • S.HS.ENV.22: Examine legislation associated with the protection of water: Clean Water Act.

The International Space Station

Best for middle school audiences and above.

Unveils what it takes to live in space and the engineering required to build a station in space. What is it like to be an astronaut? How do daily activities change when you're traveling 5 miles per second?! What does the future of space travel look like?

High School Audiences

“NANOGrav: Tuning into Einstein’s Universe”

Best for high school and above.

Highlights NANOGrav, a collaboration of researchers around the country, including at West Virginia University, who study Einstein's predicted "gravitational waves." It builds on the history of astronomy from Galileo’s time to show how gravity can open a whole new window to our understanding of the universe. How are gravitational waves made? How do we use pulsars to detect them? How can you become involved? For this presentation a graduate student researcher from West Virginia University's pulsar and black hole group will visit your school.

Learn more about NANOGrav here:

Hands-on Activities

Supplement a presentation with any of these interactive hands-on activities!

Please note, time required for each activity varies and is listed next to each option.

Every activity is designed for groups of 30 students or less.

Any teachers present may be asked to assist the Ambassador(s) with aspects of the activity such as hand-out materials, repeat instructions, etc.

(30 minutes)

Astronomers have found hundreds of other worlds. How would another life form adapt to environments with different surfaces, temperatures, atmospheres, and gravity? This is your chance to get creative!

Good for all ages. Best with "How to Make a Planet...with Life!" presentation.

(30 minutes)

Use gumdrops and toothpicks to build your own molecule! Learn about "functional groups" to describe your molecule's properties.

Good for all ages. Best with "How to Make a Planet...with Life!" presentation.

(30 minutes)

Learn how diligent and careful computer programmers needs to be to get a robot like Curiosity or the arm on the International Space Station to follow directions. Program your own code for a robot arm to stack cups!

Good for middle school and older. Best with "The International Space Station" and "Mars" presentations.

(20-30 minutes)

Fold register tape to map out the relative distances between the orbits of the planets! This is a fun, easy, and quick activity.

Good for all ages and presentations.

  • NGSS MS-ESS1 Earth’s Place in the Universe, Science and Engineering Practices: Developing and Using Models. Use paper folding to predict and construct a scale model for orbital radius of planets in the solar system. Discuss pros and cons of the model.

  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. Determine how the planets and the asteroid belt are distributed throughout the solar system.

  • Crosscutting Concepts: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. Discuss proportion and scale between model and reality for the relative distance of solar system objects.

  • CCSS Mathematics 6.RP.A.1 Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ration relationship between two quantities. Use ratio language to answer questions such as: If the paper is divided into 16ths and folded in half one more time, what fraction will each segment represent?

(30 minutes)

How big is the moon in comparison to Earth? How far away? Use Play-Doh to make your best guess, then find out the true scale!

Good for all ages and presentations.

  • ETS1A: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem. Use playdoh to predict and construct a scale model for the relative size of the Earth and Moon.

  • Crosscutting Concepts: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. Discuss the difference in proportion and scale between a mass-based model and a size-based model.

  • CCSS Mathematics 7.RP.A.2 Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities. Predict and determine the relative distance between the Earth and Moon, using the same scale as their sizes.

(15-30 minutes)

A new take on the old card game war! Learn about the different types of light. Longest wavelength wins!

Good for all ages. Best with "The Invisible Universe 2.0" and "Space Telescopes: Searching for Other Worlds" presentations.

(60-90 minutes)

The Green Bank Telescope (GBT) is the largest steerable structure on land. How do engineers balance cost, materials, and weight to make such a strong and durable telescope? Practice building your own tall structure that can hold weight with spaghetti, gum drops, and marshmallows!

Good for middle school and older. Best with "The Invisible Universe 2.0" presentation.

  • NGSS MS-PS1 Matter and its Interactions Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function. Experiment with structural materials (ex: spaghetti, gumdrops, marshmallows, toothpicks) and shapes (ex: triangles, squares)

  • Crosscutting Concept: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. Discuss how the challenges faced in designing a structure might scale to other materials and larger structures.

  • NGSS MS-PS2 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function. Design and test structures that will remain stable and support weight (i.e. as sand is added to the top of the structure).

  • Science and Engineering Practices: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Compare and contrast the effectiveness of other groups’ designs; offer explanations for why the GBT designs functioned as they did.

  • NGSS MS-ETS1-1 Engineering Design Cross Cutting Concepts: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World. Discuss the purposes of building a large structure that can hold weight. Compare to construction of the Green Bank Telescope.

  • Disciplinary Core Idea ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems. Plan construction of a structure with material, height, strength, time, and cost constraints.

(15-30 minutes)

How much of the Earth's water supply is freshwater? Where does the Earth keep this freshwater? How can our state's freshwater reservoirs impact the nation? Students will use 1000 mL of water to represent all water on Earth. They will then divide the 1000 mL into the relative amounts found within each of Earth's major reservoirs. The relative amounts can be given to the students (younger groups), or the students can be required to calculate amounts in each reservoir (older groups).

Good for all ages. Best with "Water: The Source of Life" presentation.

  • NGSS S.2.GS.11: Obtain information to identify where water is found on Earth and that it can be solid or liquid.

  • NGSS S.5.GS.9: Describe and graph the amounts and percentages of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.

  • NGSS S.HS.ENV.18: Identify sources, uses, quality, conservation, and global distribution of water.

(30 minutes)

What is a watershed? Where does our water come from? Where does it go? How do our daily lives impact the watershed(s) we live in? Students will ‘build’ their own watershed by balling up newspapers to create mountains, valleys, and lakes. A plastic table cloth will be placed over top of the landscape structure and props, representing various land use activities, will be placed throughout the watershed. Students will then simulate rainfall and observe how the rainwater washes various pollutants into downstream systems.

Good for all ages. Best with "Water: The Source of Life" presentation.

  • NGSS S.5.GS.8: Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.