TJC science center reaches wider audience through virtual field trips | TJC

TJC science center reaches wider audience through virtual field trips

When the coronavirus pandemic prohibited large school groups from visiting Tyler Junior College’s Earth and Space Science Center, staff members began seeking ways to educate students virtually.

“We’ve worked hard to provide a way to bring the field trip to them,” said Dr. Beau Hartweg, science center director.
The center began offering live, interactive virtual field trips via the Zoom platform, using the same Nightshade NG planetarium software that it uses on site. Each virtual field trip is 30 to 45 minutes long and hosted by a trained planetarium educator who guides students through the lesson and interacts with them as if they are touring the center in person.
The virtual tours cover a variety of earth and space science concepts, such as: constellations and the night sky; sun-earth-moon system; moon phases; the planets and the solar system; geology and more. Pre-recorded shows have also been created for classes without Zoom capabilities.
Hartweg said this new, virtual option has also expanded the center’s audience to include students across the nation and even around the world.
He said, “We have seen great response from the East Texas community, and one of the benefits to doing virtual programs is that we can extend the reach beyond who we have traditionally been able to serve. We already have virtual programs scheduled for school and community groups in states such as Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and New York — and even a school in India.”
In addition to school groups from grades kindergarten through 12, virtual field trips are available for homeschoolers, scouting groups and community events.
Hartweg continued, “We miss being able to see all the excited faces of students when they visit us in person, but we are thrilled about serving the community in this new way.”
For more information, go to
‘Rock and Roll Saturday’ returns Oct. 17
The science center is bringing “Rock and Roll Saturday” back to its 40-foot dome theater with a special event from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17. In keeping with health and safety guidelines, face coverings are required, and room capacity will be limited to allow for physical distancing.
“Rock the Dome” offers 3D visuals and effects that will captivate audiences as the 16,000-watt, digital surround-sound system plays alternative rock hits from artists including Audioslave, Beck, Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails, 311, Modest Mouse, Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Nirvana, Muse and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The show will also feature a few classic rock favorites ranging from The Beatles and Rolling Stones to The Doors and Aerosmith.
Tickets are $5 per person and can be purchased at
New dome shows
The science center continues to offer shows in its 40-foot dome theater, with limited seating, advance tickets required, and health and safety precautions strictly observed.
• ‘Accidental Astronauts: An Earth, Moon, Sun Adventure’ — now showing
In a brand-new show for children, families and school groups, robo-kids Cy and Annie, along with their dog Armstrong, get a lot more than they expected from their class field trip. Tag along on their impromptu adventure as they explore the sun, earth and moon, with a witty starship computer as navigator and guide. Race along on the surface of the moon! Collect an asteroid sample in low gravity! Survive a solar storm! Find new appreciation for the earth’s unique beauty.
• ‘Big Astronomy’ — now showing
It takes many people with diverse backgrounds, talents and skills to run a world-class observatory. Meet a few of these people as they share the wonder of the sky and the excitement of discovery. Explore the world-class observatories nestled in northern mountains of Chile and learn why its beautiful mountain ranges and clear, cloudless skies create an ideal environment for studying the cosmos.
• ‘Extreme Auroras’ — opens in November
Created by award-winning photographer Ole Salomonsen, “Extreme Auroras” is a visual feast. Join Salomonsen as he journeys through northern Norway, Finland and Sweden in pursuit of his passion to film nature’s wildest and most spectacular light show: the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Filmed with fisheye lenses that capture the whole sky and then projected in the full-dome theater, you will feel as if you are immersed in the arctic wilderness, witnessing this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. 
• ‘Asteroid: Mission Extreme!’ — opens in January 2021
“Asteroid: Mission Extreme” takes audiences on an epic journey to discover the potential that asteroids present to facilitate manned space travel. Through stunning visuals and state-of-the-art computer graphics, the film presents the fascinating idea that asteroids could serve as stepping stones to other worlds, veritable way stations in space enabling us to cross the entire Solar System. 
Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children, students and senior citizens. Advance online reservations are required. Policies and procedures have been modified for the health and safety of science center visitors, and guests are advised to review the guidelines on the website before their visit. The dome theater is thoroughly cleaned between each showing.
On Tuesdays through Fridays, guests can reserve a private screening in the planetarium during the 9:45 a.m. timeslot. For a $25 flat fee, up to 15 visitors can enjoy a private viewing of any one of the shows from the center’s existing library.
The science center is located at 1411 E. Lake St., on the TJC main campus. Operating hours are 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, and private screening show times are 9:45 a.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. Parking is free.
To purchase advance tickets and review the health and safety guidelines, go to


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