Hot, humid days are beginning to wash over Chapel Hill as they do every year about this time. Summer doesn’t officially begin until the solstice, but the not-so-lazy days of summer begin around here as soon as the first minivans and SUVs full of excited summer campers begin their pilgrimage toward Morehead like that endless line of baseball fans making their way to an Iowa cornfield at the end of “Field of Dreams.”

For our guests, there are friends to be made at camp.  A new “Magic Tree House Space Mission” to be seen in the fulldome theater. And thrills and chills galore to be had in “Science Live!” Yet, I feel fall in the air. You say, Jeff, relax and enjoy the summer. I say summer is almost over in my world. You see, most of my team lives a cycle (or more) in advance of what you actually experience at Morehead.

Right now, we’re working on the 2010-2011 field trip brochure.  Planning for September’s North Carolina Science Festival is in high gear. We’re polishing plans for relaunching “Starry Nights” as a monthly program in September. We’ve already lined up the honored guest and musical acts for November’s Jupiter Ball (you’ll have to wait to find out who they are). And we have multiple grants to write between now and fall’s first frost.

So why am I telling you this? It’s simple really. We’re here to serve you and to deliver programming that interests and inspires you, your families and your schools. Now is the time to give us your ideas and suggestions for new programs and improvements for the coming year. We want to hear from you. And don’t forget to sunscreen this summer!

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations and all this talk of fall has him thinking about football.

I heard an interesting comment the other day from one of my colleagues: “Spring break is the longest holiday.” And in a lot of ways that’s true. At Morehead, we see a spring break surge for about two weeks because some schools break before Easter while others wait until the week after. For parents, it may just feel like the longest holiday. Unlike the holiday season, there aren’t a lot of holiday-specific activities to fill the days, and unlike summer, the period isn’t long enough to settle into a comfortable routine.

My two-year-old checks out the fish at the Georgia Aquarium

My two-year-old checks out the fish at the Georgia Aquarium

As a result, a lot of families take to the road for a vacation or a few day trips. With that in mind, let me suggest a few ideas based on my recent experiences:

  • Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Duh. It IS my job to encourage people to come here, and with the new fulldome video system that’s easy to do. Make sure to check the calendar on the home page before making the trip on a weekday because we still have field-trip groups and a lot of shows are sold out.
  • North Carolina Museum of Life and Science (Durham). My two-year-old loves Loblolly Park and the petting zoo. While the entire museum is worth seeing,  go on a day with nice weather because so much of what they have to offer is outside.
  • Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta). If you’re making your way to Atlanta and haven’t been to the aquarium, put this on your list (and buy tickets in advance). Located close to Olympic Park, the Georgia Aquarium is world class all the way.
  • Zoo Atlanta: I think the zoo has gotten overshadowed by the aquarium, but the zoo is worth the trip. Pandas, kangaroos, a petting zoo, zebras, tigers — all in a manageable space for most kids.
  • N.C. Aquariums (Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island): I’ve heard great things about all three locations, but I can only speak firsthand regarding the Fort Fisher aquarium. If you are thinking about the Fort Fisher aquarium from your own childhood, this isn’t it. Dramatically expanded between 1999 and 2002, this aquarium is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon when you are in the Wilmington area.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of science-themed museums and attractions in our area, state and region. We’re fortunate to have a number of high-quality options. If you are looking for something to do with the kids, check ‘em out.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations and is sorry that he didn't have enough space to mention the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, the National Aquarium, The Health Adventure, the Schiele Museum, SciWorks, the Science Museum of Virginia, and ... (you get the idea!)

“What’s new at Morehead?” That’s a common question that I get from friends and family. Whenever I get the question, I’m always a little dumbstruck. Where to start? There’s always something new in the works. Maybe the first of a new year is a little unusual with people feeling the need to launch new initiatives or the jump-start ones left over from the prior year. But my schedule this week has been full of meetings on interesting projects that are in the works. Don’t take it for granted that all of these projects (or Morehead’s participation) will actually happen. Keep checking back for official announcements. But here’s a taste of what’s been on my calendar this week and what we’re working on for 2010:

  • National Lab Day: The White House is backing an initiative to connect teachers, students, engineers and scientists in hands-on science learning. It’s more than just one day, but National Lab Day activities will take place the first week of May. We’re working on connecting with teachers and students via the DESTINY program and UNC scientists. We’re also discussing working through the timing because the first week of May is leading into end-of-course tests in North Carolina.
  • An example of a steampunk computer keyboard and monitor.

    An example of a steampunk computer keyboard and monitor. Image from Wired.com.

    The Art and Science of Steampunk: We had a meeting this week with a couple of members of the local steampunk scene. One of my colleagues, Amber Vogel, has received a grant to put on a steampunk festival in April. For those of you who might not be familiar with steampunk (I wasn’t), steampunk is a subculture that fuses the Victorian Era, science fiction and new technology. Need a better description? Check out Wired magazine’s description and examples.

  • The USA Science and Engineering Festival: That’s coming up in October. We’re planning on participating in the expo on the National Mall and developing a local counterpart. Denise Young plans on sharing more details in an upcoming blog post.

And of course, we’re working on Our Next Giant Leap. What is Our Next Giant Leap? You’ll have to check back later this month for more details. But I’ll say this: it’s big.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations and is wishing that he had a copy of Will Smith's "Wild, Wild West" on Blu-Ray.

Friday, Nov. 20

Friday, Nov. 20

I can’t believe it’s already October. That means Jupiter Ball,  Morehead’s annual black-tie gala fundraiser, is coming up fast. Invitations are set to go out next week. Also by next week, you’ll be able to download an invitation or reserve your tickets online. I’d better check to see if I can still fit in my tux!

Also this year the Jupiter Committee, a wonderful group of volunteers who pull the event together, came up with another great idea, an online auction. The idea is fairly simple: an online auction has the potential to reach a lot more people than the ball itself — which usually ends up with around 300 guests each year. They’ve got a lot of really awesome items in the online auction. My personal favorite is the basketball signed by the members of the 2009 NCAA championship team. Just a guess — that’ll go for more than I can afford. The online auction preview starts tomorrow, Oct. 2. Bidding starts Oct. 10. Check it out.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

We’ve been conducting a survey of our Morehead members recently and one of the open-ended comments caught my eye. Someone commented that our schedules seem erratic. And they’re right — sort of.

Here’s the scoop to deciphering our scheduling patterns. There’s very little mystery to nights, weekends and summers. We change show schedules in January, June, September and November to provide guests with a variety of shows. The schedules are usually published about three to six weeks in advance of the start date and don’t change except for the occasional special event.

Amazing field tripsOn weekdays between September and May, our schedule is a bit trickier because it’s designed around school field trips. Basically, we only run shows on weekdays during that time if a group has scheduled a show. If seats remain, we open up the show to the general public. We try our very best to verify that the group is coming and how many seats they need before posting these shows on our Web site. That’s why we usually don’t post these shows to our Web site until just a few days in advance and why the schedule seems to always be changing.

However, we’ve found this method to be the best way to offer programming for the general public on weekdays during the school year. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be cost-effective for us to offer any programming for the general public during that period.

We try to offer a lot of flexibility to school groups for scheduling; but, if you want to get an idea about how our weekday schedule will look in 2009-2010, check out the PDF of our field trip planning guide

I hope this post clears up some of the mystery to Morehead’s scheduling practices. If you have questions or any ideas about better scheduling patterns, we’d love to hear them.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Welcome Morehead Director Todd Boyette to the blogosphere. He’ll begin writing in this spot as soon as we can get him set up on the system. Todd will be able to offer insights into the vision for Morehead and its future direction.

Make sure to check out Todd’s bio on the Morehead Web site.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

31 Jul 2009
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BlogMorehead Planetarium and Science Center is committing to writing more blogs. Denise Young, Jonathan Frederick and Amy Sayle will be contributing writers. Look for their blogs beginning in August.

Denise is our director of education. Jonathan is the science programs manager and has responsibility for Current Science Forums and summer camps. Amy will blogging about the night sky and Science 360.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Tom MarshburnI’ve got to admit it. I meet some pretty cool people in my job. About three years ago, we hosted Tom Marshburn as a guest speaker during the “Destination: Space” premiere weekend activities. Tom is a NASA astronaut who happens to be a North Carolinian. He’s a Statesville native and a Davidson graduate.

I remember thinking at the time what a great role model Tom is for kids. As well as being an astronaut, he’s a medical doctor and seems like an all-around nice guy. He was unfailingly gracious — even as the kids in the audience grilled him about going to the bathroom in space!

Well, yesterday on the 40th anniversary on the moon landing, Tom was living his dream and making headlines. He went space walking as part of current shuttle mission. Way to go, Tom!

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Here’s your hot travel tip for the summer. Membership. Most museum and science center visitors don’t even consider membership as an option unless the ticket seller mentions it, but membership really is one of the best bargains around at most museums and science centers. Consider Morehead for example. A tax-deductible Morehead family membership costs $60 and gets you free admission for an entire year. In comparison, if a family of four (two adults, two kids) visits, they’re going to pay $22 for admission. If they want to see a second show, add another $8. Considering tax benefits, that family more than breaks even on just two visits.

Association of Science-Technology CentersAnd the savings don’t stop there. One of the best parts is the reciprocal agreement that a lot of museums and science centers have for each other’s members: free general admission to participating museums. Morehead participates in a reciprocal agreement with other science centers through the ASTC Passport Program (one big caveat: the reciprocal agreement does not apply to science centers and museums within 90 miles of Morehead). That means you can become a member at Morehead and visit science centers free across the country. I’m sure you’re thinking that it’s a limited number of science centers that participates. Nope. Check out the list for yourself on th ASTC Web site. Most of the biggest and most well-known science centers in the world are on the list. Exploratorium in San Franciso. Yes. The Franklin Insitute in Philadelphia. Check. The Field Museum in Chicago. You bet. Check out the admission prices for some of the science centers, and you’ll figure out in a hurry that membership is a great value.

So why do science centers offer such a bargain? It’s simple really. Think of it as a customer loyalty program. We want you to come as often as you like, and membership makes multiple visits affordable.

So if you’re looking for a great bargain, consider membership. By the way, there are other benefits, too. Get all of the info on our membership page. While you’re visiting that page, you can sign up for membership online or you can sign up when you visit Morehead. One more note, you will need a membership card to take advantage of the discounts at other science centers. Allow a few weeks for us to process your membership application and get it to you.

After you visit science centers using your Morehead membership, come on back here and tell us how it was!

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Morehead: Celebrating 60 Years of ServiceIn recognition of our 60th anniversary, we are extending a special membership offer — 13 months for the price of 12. Membership is already a great deal; this just makes it better. Visit as many times as you want during your membership for just $60 for the entire family. You also get plenty of other extras.

If you are already a Morehead member, you can take advantage of this special offer to extend your membership. Regardless of when your expiration date is, we’ll add the 13 months to the end of the membership.

While membership is a great value (and who isn’t look for great values these days?), membership is also a great way to support Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and its various science education activities. Private giving is ultimately a key to our ability to keep admission prices low; and members form the base of our private supporters.

Learn more about membership or register for membership online now.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations


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