School Programs

Field Trips to the Observatory

Scout Programs

Outreach and Online to You

Teacher / Leader Resource

Space at Home

Before Your Visit

The Cincinnati Observatory is one of the most unique museums in the country.  We are excited to share this Cincinnati treasure with you and your class and give you a memorable, astronomical, historical, and hands-on experience.  However, the equipment we use is expensive and many displays include priceless historic items so we ask that you please review the following rules with your students before your visit and help us maintain them during your visit.  

1. Dress for the weather.  The domes that house the telescopes are kept at the same temperature as outside.  So please dress warmly in case of cold weather.

2. Prepare your quiet “Museum Voices” and “Museum Feet” for your visit.  Since you’ll be in a museum we ask that there is no running, jumping, or loud talking in and around the buildings.

3. Remember to keep your hands to yourself and only touch displays or equipment when directed so by the tour guide.

4. Be observant.  Since you’ll be visiting an Observatory we want your eyes to notice everything in and around the building. 

5. If you have questions please raise your hand and the tour guide will answer them

Viewing through a telescope can be a new experience for both students and adults.  We recommend practicing a number of fun experiments before your visit to enhance your experience.

  • Practice winking. (Don't laugh - you'd be surprised how many adults have trouble looking through our telescopes). You only use one eye to look through the telescope so students can practice winking or holding one eye closed with their hand.  The students will soon learn which is their dominant eye.
  • Make practice telescopes.  You can turn paper towel rolls or any cylinder into a practice telescope.  Having the students sight objects through these items can dramatically help them when they view through a real telescope.
Kid Solar Viewing

While we are temporarily closed, we are offering all of our topics through online programming.

To schedule an online astronomy program for your group: Online Program Request Page

If you can't visit the Observatory we can come to you. Our Outreach Program has delivered thousands of programs to area schools, scout meetings, libraries, and nursing homes. An astronomer can visit your class, lead fun and in-depth professional development for your teachers, or deliver hands-on, inquiry-based programs that meet academic content standards. We can also bring telescopes for safe viewing of sunspots and solar flares or even lead an evening star party at your place. We will work actively to design a program that is right for your class. Program descriptions of our most popular programs are listed below. However, we can customize any program to your astronomical needs.

All school and community center programs are free thanks to a grant from the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee.  This includes outreach to you, admission on field trips, and buses. 

The Cincinnati Observatory welcomes you and your group to experience the wonders of the sky through our historic telescopes. Our staff and volunteers enjoy nothing more than sharing the views of the universe with others. Group visits are offered both during the day and in the evenings and include a tour of the oldest professional observatory in America and the workings of the main scopes and domes. Astronomy presentations of your choice and classroom activities are offered if weather does not permit viewing.

While we are temporarily closed we are offering virtual field trips for your group.

To schedule a virtual field trip, try our new Online Program Request Page

Programs Available

  • The Planets and their Orbits (Recommended for grades K-8)  - The solar system is constantly changing and we can keep you up to date. Utilizing the latest images from NASA we will share the canyons on Mars, the giant hurricane on Jupiter, and the rings of Saturn while demonstrating their pathways around the Sun.

  • Stars and Constellations (Recommended for grades K-6th)  -  There are more stars in the sky than you can ever count. But you'll see that finding your way around the sky has never been this fun. Combining astronomy with memorable ancient myths, this program will encourage your students to research and write about the constellations. Have you heard the story of Orion?
  • Rockets (Recommended for grades 3-12)  -  Getting to out into space takes rocket science as well as math, engineering, physics, and a lot of creativity. This program lets you design a water bottle rocket and launch it from our specially designed launch pad. 

  • Comets and meteors (Recommended for any grade level)  -  Stuff hitting the Earth always fascinates students. We can make a comet right in your classroom and bring actual meteorites for close inspection. Students will learn about their structure, parts, and orbits while being able to touch a rock from space.
  • Moon phases and eclipses (Recommended for grades 6-9) - Moon phases are perhaps the most difficult astronomical phenomenon for students to understand. With the assistance of a half-painted soccer ball, 30 moons on a stick, a 150-watt light bulb, and some great simulation software, your students' will sure to become luna-tics.

  • Tour of the Universe (Recommended for any grade level) -  Rocket through space among billions of stars and galaxies. This program tackles the life cycles, and types of stars and galaxies as well as the distances to these interstellar objects. Students will discover how much we have learned from telescopes and where their place is in the universe.
  • Reasons for the Seasons (Recommended for grades 4-8)  -   A 23.5 degree tilt makes all the difference between winter and summer. The Earth has a slanted view of the universe and you will discover how the angle of the Sun's rays cause Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.

  • Life and Death of Stars (Recommended for grades 8-12) - Stars comes in all masses and colors. But where do they come from? What happens when they die? This stellar evolution program takes you through the lives of various stars and their dramatic demises.

All school and community center programs are free thanks to a grant from the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee.  This includes outreach to you, admission on field trips, and buses. Schedule Today

Evening Star Parties - Other groups wanting to see into space for yourself? We can bring portable telescopes to your location for nighttime viewing programs. You can take a close-up look at the Moon, planets, stars and more!

       $150 small group (less than 40 people and one staff member)

       $250 large group (over 40 people using multiple telescope/staff)

If you have further questions or would like to schedule an outreach visit, please try our Online Program Request Page, email us at or call us at 513-321-5186.

Girl Scout and Cub Scout Programs at the Observatory

Looking for a unique place to visit with your scout troop?  Looking for a program that fulfills your badge requirements?  Looking to, well... LOOK through a giant telescope?  The Observatory has you covered.

STEM Educators Experience

Astronomy Resources to help you Keep Looking Up!

While we are closed, we are doing online programming!  We can bring the universe to your group.  Request an Online Program

But on your own you can do some stargazing with the help of Skymaps' Star Chart for May 

Watch Astronomer Dean Regas give his tips of what to see in the night sky with Dean's Weekly Live Videos

For spacey art projects try the Eurekus STEAM and Maker page

NISE has some amazing: Science at Home Projects

Let NASA bring the universe to you with NASA at Home

Telescope Etiquette

If skies are clear, each student will get a chance to look through the telescope. They will have to view from a platform with steps. One person will view at a time.

  • When viewing through any telescope, please do not touch it because it will move. Then we will have to find the object and center it again for the next person.
  • Take your time. Sometimes it takes several seconds to find the image in the telescope. Wiggle your eye around until you catch the light coming through the eyepiece.
  • Many people still have trouble seeing through a telescope so do not hesitate to ask for help. We will be happy to readjust the telescope or move your eye.

Dress for the weather. The Observatory dome is kept at the same temperature as the outside air. In the winter, it can be very cold. In the summer, it can be very hot.

Daytime Visits:

Field trips include a brief presentation on a topic of your choice followed by a tour of the buildings. Weather permitting, you can also safely see the Sun safely through telescopes. When conditions are right, you can observe sunspots and solar flares using white light and hydrogen alpha filters. Programs last from 60-75 minutes, and recommended for group sizes of 12-65 people. You are also welcome to pack a lunch for before or after a program and make use of the beautiful grounds.  

New for 2020: Free admission for schools! All school and community center field trips are free thanks to a grant from the Jacob G. Schmidlapp Trusts, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee.  We can even pay for buses! 

To schedule an field trip, try our Online Program Request Page 


  • Want to learn more about the Moon?  Download our Moon Scavenger Hunt
  • This Moon Phase activity from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is one of the best! Cut out six Moon phases and arrange them in the proper order (not as easy as it sounds). Download Images of the Moon
  • This NASA video shows you how to Make a Moon Journal
  • Are Moon phases still confusing?  Want to model Moon phases?  This video shows you how in a clear an accurate way: Moon Phase Demo
  • And probably the best way to understand Moon phases is to make them with Oreos (see Dean's video to the right)

Astronomy and eating cookies: It's a winning combination!

Questions for your visit

Below are some sample questions for your students to uncover during their visit to the Observatory.  These can act as sample questions for your students to ask during the tour.  Feel free to print these for each student to bring and they can fill in the answers as we go.

  • Why is the Cincinnati Observatory a National Historic Landmark?
  • What are some interesting facts about our founder and first director of the Observatory, Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel
  • The first Observatory was built on Mt. Adams.  Why was it called Mt. Adams?
  • Why did the telescope have to move to Mt. Lookout?
  • How do the telescopes work?
  • How do we open and move the dome so that we can see the whole sky?
  • How did people predict the weather over 100 years ago?
  • What are some great things to look at with a telescope this month? 

Nighttime Visits:

Great for schools, scouts, churches, or any group.  This includes a brief program, a tour of the buildings and viewing through the telescopes (weather permitting). See the Moon, stars, and planets through some massive telescopes and experience the “WOW” of astronomy. Nighttime programs last between 60-75 minutes and are best for groups of 12-35 people.

Admission fees are $7/adults, $5/kids with a minimum of $100/group.
Teachers and aides are free.

A limited number of scholarships are available to help defray admission and ask about our grant that may pay for one free bus for your field trip.

Note: Please dress for the weather.  Even if it is cold or rainy we will still have to walk outside for our tours or to view the sky.  Also the domes are about the same temperature as outside.   

If you would like to schedule a field trip, please try our Online Program Request Page, email us at or call us at 513-321-5186.

Evening Programs

This private program is geared just for your troop and includes a presentation by an astronomer, a hands-on tour of the historic buildings, and viewing through the oldest telescope in the country (weather permitting).  These 1-hour programs run rain or shine and are available Monday-Wednesday nights (start times vary by season).  

Admission is $7/adults, $5/kids with a minimum of $100 per group. Reservations are required, generally 1-2 months in advance. This is perfect for a group of between 15-35 kids and adults.


Looking for information about the seasons?  The distance to the Sun is NOT the difference between Summer and Winter.  It's the unique tilt Earth has as it circles the Sun.  This special Star Gazers episode not only shows why we have different seasons, but how James lost all his hair by flying too close to the Sun. 

After Your Visit

At the completion of your field trip, your tour guide will provide you an evaluation form.  Please let us know how we did so that we can make the experience even better in the future.

Use the sample questions above after your visit to see what parts of the tour impacted your students the most.

Have your students write an essay about their visit to the Cincinnati Observatory which answer three main questions:

  • What did they learn about Cincinnati history?
  • What did they like best about their field trip?
  • What would they like to learn more about?   

Homework Options

Find out what were the top ten largest cities in the country in 1843.

Research the history of the Cincinnati Observatory at: 

Learn more about John Quincy Adams’ journey to Cincinnati in order to lay the cornerstone of the first Cincinnati Observatory:

Mount Adams and Mount Lookout get their names because of the Cincinnati Observatory.  Research how the other “Mounts” of Cincinnati got their names: Mount Airy, Mount Auburn, Mount Echo, Mount Healthy, Mount Storm, and Mount Washington.

Interdisciplinary Connections

The old telescope made several trips in its life.  Chart the path it took from Munich, Germany to downtown Cincinnati in 1844.  How did it get there?  Then the telescope moved from Mt. Adams to Mount Lookout in 1873.  Map the route they took, figure out how they would have moved 2,000 pounds of equipment, how fast they could travel, and how long it would take to make the trip. 

Original location on Mount Adams:,-84.498851&ie=UTF-8&ei=4JYYU_GpNaOdyQG5p4GoBw&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ

Current location on Mount Lookout:

   3489 Observatory Place
   Cincinnati, Ohio 45208

Technology Connections

To better predict the weather the Cincinnati Observatory used the telegraph to connect with other cities.  In fact, the telegraph was the “Internet of the 1900s.”  Research how the telegraph worked and explore how you would send messages over great distances without a computer.

Learn how to build a working telescope.  The Cincinnati Observatory can loan your class a set of telescopes that you can build in your classroom.  They can be assembled in one class period and disassembled in another.  If you are interested in borrowing a set of Galileoscopes, please contact us.  For more on the Galileoscopes, please see:   


Cincinnati Observatory Educators, Sam, Nicole, and Natalia take you on a tour of the 8 planets in our solar system.  You can learn a little about each planet and see the difference between the small, rocky, inner planets and the humongous, gassy, outer planets.  Planets are shown to scale: 1 inch = 4000 miles. 

   Planet Quiz (Easy)        Planet Quiz (Medium)       Planet Quiz (Difficult) 

And you can print out our Planet Passport - Our year-round challenge for you to see and learn about all the planets (and collect stickers).

Check out our latest videos at The Observatory's YouTube Page

Afterschool Programs

The Observatory is also active during the day time where you can view the Sun safely using professional solar filters. These 1-hour programs are available Monday-Thursday afternoons and include a tour of the historic buildings.  

Admission is $7/adults, $5/kids with a minimum of $100 per group. Reservations are required, generally 1 month in advance. 


Cincinnati Observatory educators, Nicole, Natalia, Sam, and Kelsey take you on an imaginary journey to the planet Venus.  Everyone always talks about going to Mars, why not Venus?  What would it be like to be the first (and possibly last) visitors to our Sister Planet?  Get your space helmets ready - but don't pack your bags.  You'll see why Venus is possibly the worst place you could go.  

Check out our latest videos at The Observatory's YouTube Page


In space, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, keeps an eye on our nearest star 24/7. SDO captures images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. In this video, we experience SDO images of the sun in unprecedented detail.

Outreach to You

If you can't visit the Observatory, the Observatory can visit you.  We can bring our stellar programs to your scout meetings by day or night.  And if the skies are clear we can bring telescopes to view the skies and create a real star party at your next meeting.

Outreach fees are start at $150 (for fewer than 40 people), $250 for larger groups.


Join our friend James from the Cincinnati Museum Center as he talks about the physics of rocketry and demonstrates how to make and "safely" launch a rocket powered by Alka-Seltzer.  Watch the face!

Other Youth Organizations

If you are a member of a youth organization with an astronomy program, please let us know. We can set up a program to meet the needs of your young astronomers. Give us the requirements ahead of time, and we’ll take care of the rest.

For more information or to schedule any program please try our new Online Program Request Page or contact Dean Regas at 513-321-5186.



Looking for the Spaciest Playlist ever?  Our Educator Nicole Capella (yes she has a starry name, even) put her favorites together on Spotify: Sounds From Space 

Which songs are we missing? Send us an email