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Blast Off! Explore Space in Arkansas


Getting ready for the great North American solar eclipse brought out the scientists in all of us. Whether we grew up thinking about space or got the bug in April, we all have a sudden interest and new understanding of the sun, stars and planetary alignment. And, let’s not forget the Aurora Borealis many of us checked off a lifetime bucket list earlier this month!

Many elementary-age children are interested in dinosaurs, trains, safari animals or farm life. But something sparks a genuine interest in space among this same age group.

Astronomy, astrobiology, and astrophysics educators notice some common characteristics of students interested in space, solar systems and astrology.

  • Personally motivated
  • Driven by curiosity
  • Ask and seek answers to tough questions
  • more engaged in studies
  • Achieve more over time

Luckily for those interested in space, there are many ways to continue to explore space in Arkansas beyond the phenomenon we just experienced.

Places to explore space in Arkansas

Arkansas Skydome Planetarium

This portable planetarium travels to schools and events to explore space in Arkansas, bringing the science environment directly to you. Aligning with a high-tech immersive experience, 8-10 tables of space materials, including autographs, NASA memorabilia, and planet samples, give participants a look beyond the stars.

Other resources you may find helpful: Printable Star Charts, Meteor Showers, Faith Programs, How to take pictures of the moon
Check Availability | Website | Social

Moon to Mars Hands-on Experience

Amazeum visitors can explore space in a traditional moon rover. A traveling exhibit on loan from the Omaha Children’s Museum allows children to act like astronauts. A rocket launcher helps them learn about velocity and the distance a rocket may travel to visit the moon, sun or planets. Children can also dress like astronauts, sit inside a rocket, or drive a Mars rover.
Amazeum, Bentonville | Website | The exhibit may close during summer. 

James Turrell’s Skyspace

For 10 years, The Way of Color has used an optical illusion with interior LED lights to change how visitors experience the setting sun. As the colors internally shift, the interaction with the sun creates a 3D effect and even offers darker and brighter colors than atmospherically exist.
Crystal Bridges, Bentonville  | Website | Facebook viewing | Instagram | LinkedIn

NWA Space and Science Center

The NWA Space and Science Center exists to ignite the curiosity of space and science for lifelong learners. While they do not have a physical location, this collection of science enthusiasts brings space to the community at farmers’ markets and community events. This group is currently working to refurbish an antique refractor telescope. Their most substantial accomplishment is the Telescope lending program with 7 Northwest Arkansas libraries, widening the opportunity for patrons to view the night sky in greater depth.
Bentonville | Website | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | YouTube

Camp Inside Engineering

At the summer camp, participants will use their curious minds to explore space and astronomy. Together, they will build a Mars rover, develop communication systems between command and astronauts, and build rockets. The week introduces engineering skills and helps students explore the concepts of gravity and microorganisms.
Bentonville | Website

Planetarium Treehouse

One of the top winners of the worldwide Airbnb OMG! contest, this one-of-a-kind overnight stay includes a geodome roof and an observation tower. With a year-round lake view and wrap-around deck, this unique experience is perfect for those who love observing the night sky.
Springdale | Listing Website

SPACE Hogs Traveling Planetarium

A partnership between the SPACE Hogs student organization and the Center for Space and Planetary Sciences offers a traveling planetarium experience for schools and student organizations in the Northwest Arkansas area. The planetarium provides tours of the planetary solar system and Northern Hemisphere constellations.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville | Website | Facebook | Scratching the Surface Radio Programs

Oaklawn Digi Dome Space Display

At Mid America Science Museum, where curiosity comes to life through more than 100 hands-on experiences, visitors can lay back (literally!) and experience the night sky through a one-of-a-kind dome shell experience. The planetarium offers a unique experience where viewers get a front-row seat, from any seat to the night sky, by traveling light years away to look at the surface of planets, swing past stars, explore the Mars terrain, and even tip-toe close to the sun’s lava waves. Tickets to the theater are an add-on to standard admission.
Mid America Science Museum, Hot Springs | Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Dr. Edmond E. Griffin Planetarium

The planetarium is part of an outreach program of multiple science departments at UCA, offering viewing for school groups and the public. It was a central location for educational experiences preceding the April 8th eclipse. Free public shows begin Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. during the spring and summer. Check the website for the show schedule.
University of Central Arkansas, Conway | Website | Facebook

Reynolds Science Center Planetarium

This planetarium, with a 26.9-ft. dome and a Digitalis Epsilon Digital projection system, is a spectacular education space in Southwest Arkansas. It hosts school groups, scientists, collegiate students, and the public.
Henderson State University, Arkadelphia | Website | Facebook

Used with permission from the Arkansas Departments of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

Pomeroy Planetarium

Located inside the Neal Turner Natural Science Museum, the primary purpose of the planetarium is science instruction by UAM professors. However, local school students visit for field trips, and it is open occasionally for workshops with the public.
Univ. of Arkansas Monticello | Website

Arkansas PBS is an excellent source of space knowledge, primarily stored online for easy access to explore space in Arkansas!

Website | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn

Meet the

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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