It’s been a while since we did an overhaul on the moreheadplanetarium.org web site. In fact, the last time we rebuilt the website was 2003. In web time, that’s back in the middle ages. So we’ve decided it’s about time. We want to do two main things, modernize it visually and technologically, allowing us to utilize social media more and make it much more intuitive to use and to find information.

So, first step is that we’re going to “reskin” the homepage, which means that we’re going to keep the majority of the elements, but give it a new modern look. The second step is to take that new look to test with our users and then rebuild guts of the site from the ground up.

Here’s a first version mock-up of the reskinning of the homepage. If you have any thoughts, concerns, complains, compliments, or rants, please leave a comment and let us know. What would you want to see in a new Morehead Planetarium and Science Center website? More education? More information? More videos? Lay it on me.

moreheadweb_v1_091609

Jay Heinz is Morehead's digital production manager.

caiusIf you’ve ever visited Morehead, you’ve learned something new about science and the world in which we live.

What may be less obvious is that Morehead is a rich learning ground for UNC students, too.  There have always been student employees at Morehead.  However, in 2001, the organization made a bold and purposeful decision to strengthen the experience for student employees by aligning its staffing strategy to the academic mission of the University.  Now, over sixty UNC students work at Morehead, and they take center stage in our organization. It is the job of our full-time staff to mentor, nurture and support them as they learn skills related to teaching, nonprofit management and communications.

Students can be found in every aspect of our operations.  In addition to serving as the “public face” of the organization – giving shows, teaching in our programs and selling tickets and merchandise in our gift shop – students work behind the scenes designing curriculum, writing for our publications and planning events.  They learn to communicate complex ideas, manage projects and reflect on their successes (and occasional failures).

In addition, many of our more experienced student employees train and support their newer colleagues.  For example, Mallory and Eryn held a training session over the weekend for our exhibit facilitators.  They planned the agenda, prepared the materials and presented the information to our staff. They will then follow up with their colleagues, answering their questions and providing additional support.  This is just one example of a leadership role available to student employees through our organization.

For sixty years, Morehead has provided high quality science education to more than seven million people – schoolchildren, teachers, families and others. Now we’re also preparing the next generation of science educators, communicators and business people, too.  We are a learning organization through and through.

Denise Young is Morehead’s director of education and planning.

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

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

24 Jul 2009
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If you haven’t heard about Morehead’s new PLANETS portable planetarium program, here’s a sneak peek for you.

portable planetarium inside Morehead\'s Star TheaterThe big “ant” at upper left is our Zeiss Model VI star projector, the centerpiece of Morehead’s Star Theater (and one of only six in the U.S.). The black “igloo” at upper right is the new PLANETS dome, which you’ll see visiting schools and communities across North Carolina.

And the smiling folks in front? You might recognize some of them as our Carolina Skies presenters (we call them “Sky Ramblers”) — Meteor Mike, Richard, Mickey Jo, Elysa, Alisa and Amy. You’ll see Elysa (holding the globe) on the road with PLANETS most often.

Karen Kornegay is Morehead's marketing manager.

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

Dragonfly TV LogoIf you missed the celebration last Saturday for Morehead’s appearance on PBS’ “Dragonfly TV,” you missed a good time. But you can still catch the show itself. It airs today (April 3) on WUNC-TV at 4 p.m. The show features some local children (some of whom are Morehead regulars). This episode explores nanotechnology. News & Observer blogger Brooke Cain did a nice post on the show.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

Earth, Moon and Sun\'s New CoyoteExciting news at Morehead. We’ve received our new portable planetarium and started taking it on the road last week. A grant from the Chatham Foundation helped us purchase the dome and is helping us pilot the portable planetarium program in western North Carolina in Wilkes, Alleghany, Surry and Yadkin counties.

It’s exciting for us to be able to deliver astronomy content with the portable planetarium program now. A lot of teachers won’t even consider bringing their classes to Chapel Hill because it’s too far away for a field trip (Imagine a group of third graders on a bus for four hours each way). This portable planetarium will allow us to take the experience to them.

By the way, you may remember Jay Heinz posting some info about our new production of “Earth, Moon and Sun” a while back. Well, that’s the show that we are featuring in the portable planetarium. Check out the new coyote from the new version. If you’ve ever seen the old version of EMS, you can see that he’s gotten quite the facelift. This new version of EMS will be available in our dome in Chapel Hill after we complete renovations and technological upgrades.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations

We made page one of the Triangle Business Journal this week in a story about our renovation plans. I have some mixed emotions about that. On one hand, there’s the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity (Alex Rodriguez might beg to differ about now). On the other, I always fear jinxing plans by talking too publicly about them too early.

For those of you who are long-time followers of Morehead, you know that these plans have been years in the works.  This year, the project has made its way to the top of UNC-Chapel Hill’s capital projects priority list. I’m certainly biased, but I think it’s a great project — renovating one of the University’s iconic buildings and creating an infrastructure that supports Morehead’s role as a leader in science education in the process.

Of course, the catch is the timing. We’ve reached the top of the priority list just as the state faces the most difficult budget year in most of our lifetimes.  While the university and state government face serious budget cuts and private supporters grapple with reduced investment portfolios, there is still a lot of talk about the value of capital projects like ours as a tool for stimulating the economy.

And it’s true. This project could result in jobs today as well as support science education across the state that could result in jobs tomorrow. How does this all play out for Morehead? I don’t know, but I can tell you that we’re sensitive to the economic situation, appreciative of the support that we receive from all quarters and ready to put people to work if and when this capital project receives funding.

Jeff Hill is Morehead's director of external relations


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