Morehead Planetarium & Science Center, as a unit of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has suspended public operations until further notice because of ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) concerns. You can read our full statement here. While you’re here, check out Morehead At Home, an online hub of resources for you to enjoy at home!

Morehead develops new digital avenues to engage statewide audiences  

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May 15, 2020
By Samantha Dikolli

The current worldwide public health crisis has presented unprecedented times for people and organizations around the world. Morehead is no exception; however, we have risen to the challenge as we have for over 70 years.   

Science doesn’t stop during a pandemic. In fact, it’s stronger than ever. While our colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill lead efforts in COVID-19 research, Morehead is leading efforts to empower the public with resources to discover and explore science from home.   

Although our physical doors have remained closed since March, we have opened new—digital—doors to provide unique opportunities to engage the public with science. Morehead staff, 90% of which are now working from home, has connected with partners to develop creative solutions to continue to support our statewide audiences.   

While our in-person educational experiences are currently on hold, Morehead has assembled an online hub of digital resources for families and educators across the state. Morehead At Home presents live virtual events including weekly skywatching sessions and science cafes, free 360° video premieres of select planetarium shows, programming for the virtual North Carolina Science Festival, and more. We hope these resources remind you of past trips to Morehead (We miss you!) or inspire you to visit us in the future.   

We’re continuing to foster meaningful connections through science with the 10th annual North Carolina Science Festival, which pivoted to a completely digital celebration of science. We couldn’t imagine an April without our annual statewide festival, so with support from sponsors including Biogen Foundation, and partners across the state, the NCSciFest team curated virtual learning opportunities for families across the state. 

As part of this 10-year commitment to science for all, we’re proud that Governor Roy Cooper also declared April 2020 STEM Education Month in North Carolina.   

The IMPACTS program, a statewide public science communication training initiative funded by the NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, has virtually trained more than 80 scientists on how to create video content and webinars. These scientists will directly support Morehead’s digital outreach efforts.  

Our Sundial Science Club, a program to encourage local families to explore science together, remains connected to families by mailing packaged activities and hosting virtual club meetings.  

GSK Science After School™, a Morehead outreach program partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs in our region, is continuing to provide science enrichment for local students. Recently, Morehead educators led a virtual science activity for the Durham Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club using the “DIY STEM” curriculum from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.   

The Morehead Afterschool Program (MAP) is continuing to provide educational opportunities for its students while public schools remain closed. Although they are not arriving at our building as usual, these students are receiving the same high-quality fun and educational afternoons at home. Our team is providing homework help and science activities through an online platform, allowing students the chance to connect with friends they haven’t been able to see in-person.   

As one of the largest employers of students on UNC-Chapel Hill campus, Morehead is dedicated to supporting students’ growth as young professionals. Our team has coordinated opportunities for students to meet virtually with fulltime Morehead staff to review resumes, update cover letters, and work on interview skills.   

Looking forward, we will remain committed to serving our audiences amidst this worldwide crisis. This month, Morehead will launch Explora las estrellas/Explore the Stars, a new initiative designed to reach bilingual families across the state. The project, possible thanks to a grant awarded by Sappi North America, will distribute 750 at-home astronomy activity kits through partner organizations that serve Spanish-speaking families.   

Morehead is proud to remain a part of your lives during this time. Whether you’re a student, parent, or educator we hope that our efforts to engage with you at home are valuable. These efforts also support Tar Heels Together, a new UNC-Chapel Hill initiative to foster connection to the Carolina community during a time of isolation and social distance. Along with the university, you can count on Morehead to provide resources to inspire you from home. Even while physically distant, we all remain connected under the same sky.  

Follow Morehead on Facebook, Twitter, an Instagram and check our website for regular updates about our virtual programming. We hope to see you sooner rather than later—whether it be through an online webinar or at a show in our GSK fulldome theater.