Programs for Visiting Schools

Museum Programs

The Gold Coast

Grades 4 through 12 | One hour program

Open a door into Long Island history with a visit to William K. Vanderbilt II’s estate. Students will tour his Spanish Revival mansion, “Eagle’s Nest,” and discover Vanderbilt’s passion for automobile racing, yachting, travel, art, architecture and science. Along the way, they will learn about the social history and culture of Long Island during the “country house era” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Science Safari

Grades Pre-K through 4 | One hour program

Join us at the Vanderbilt Museum as we take an imaginary safari! Observe exotic animals in our wildlife dioramas such as a lion, ostrich, leopard, warthog, tiger, polar bear and jaguar. Discover the diversity of wildlife and habitats around the world. The programs also includes a “hands-on” activity in which children will examine specimens such as horns, antlers, ostrich and emu eggs, and buffalo teeth. Along your safari route learn how animals adapt to each other and their environment.

Sea Search

Grades Pre-K through 5 | One hour program

Take an imaginary trip aboard Mr. Vanderbilt’s ship, “Alva”, to study marine life from all over the world. Students will visit the Hall of Fishes and see huge sea turtles, giant ocean sunfish, sharks, a whale, sea snakes and an enormous manta ray. They will have an opportunity for “hands-on” examination of a shark jaw, whale bones, sea stars, shells, coral and sea horses. Discover how marine animals adapt to life in different layers of the ocean. This program can be customized to emphasize any specific marine animals your class may be studying.

The World of Mr. Vanderbilt

Grades 2 through 12 | One hour program

William K. Vanderbilt II requests the pleasure of your company at his estate, “Eagle’s Nest.” After an introduction to the life and times of Mr. Vanderbilt, students will tour his collections, including cultural artifacts, wildlife dioramas and marine specimens. They will visit the Marine Museum, Spanish Revival courtyard and Memorial Wing. This program provides an introduction to the Vanderbilt family and an overview of the Museum’s collections. Students will learn about Mr. Vanderbilt’s travels, his passion for automobiles and ships, and his impact on Long Island history. (This is not a house tour.)

Hawaii and the Islands of the South Pacific

Grades 3 through 5 | Two Hour Program

Aloha! Welcome to the communities of the islands in the South Pacific! We begin our journey in Hawaii, showing the students the three islands that encompass Polynesia. A brief slide presentation introduces students to the unique culture, geology, language and geography of Polynesia. They will learn about Mr. Vanderbilt’s trips to Hawai’i and tour the Museum’s Polynesian and invertebrate collections, hunting for unique artifacts found in the South Pacific. Students will hear and act out Hawaiian myths and legends. They will construct their own model outrigger canoe and have a chance to sample tropical fruits.

Butterflies and Moths

Grades 2 through 4 | Two hour program Offered April through June

William K. Vanderbilt’s worldwide collection of butterflies and moths provides an up-close encounter with these colorful insects. A brief slide presentation introduces children to the concepts of metamorphosis, camouflage, migration, mimicry and symmetry. A “hunt” among the collections highlights the diversity of these exotic creatures. Using costumes, children “become” butterflies and moths in order to compare and contrast the different insects. Applying their new knowledge, the children will design and create a butterfly in a floral setting.

Marine Habitats

Grades 3 through 6 | Two hour program

Come and explore the vertical distribution of life found in the ocean from the Littoral Zone to the Trench Zone. Students will investigate and discover how the different zones support an abundance of life. Students will gather information about adaptation and survival of marine organisms. Non-living specimens such as sea stars, whale bones, whelks, coral and baleen will be studied during the “hands-on” portion of the program. A visit to Mr. Vanderbilt’s Hall of Fishes will help the children appreciate the vast diversity of life in the world’s oceans. Many unusual creatures will be discovered with a visit to the Invertebrate Gallery. Children will then create their own Marine Habitat, complete with a replica aquatic animal.

Egyptian Mummies: Art, History, Science and Mystery

Grades 5 through 8 | Two Hour Program

In 1931, William K. Vanderbilt II traveled to Cairo and purchased what he believed to be a mummy. Not until 1995 was extensive research done to discover exactly what was under the wrappings. Students will see how modern technology is used to uncover the mysteries of our mummy. A slide presentation introduces the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and shows the materials, techniques and procedures employed in the mummification process. Students get a close up look at the mummy, the x-rays and CT-scans. The program includes a project in which students create a “ushabti” or answerer figure complete with writing their names in hieroglyphs.

Identify, Classify, Draw!

Grades 4 through 8 | Two hour program

What is classification? Imagine that you are a scientist and have discovered a new creature. How would you classify it? While touring the Vanderbilt Museum’s natural-history galleries, students will compare and contrast anatomical features of vertebrates and non-vertebrates and will participate in a hands-on examination and classification of preserved marine specimens. Each student will then create a watercolor illustration of a marine specimen.

If These Walls Could Talk…The Building of Eagle’s Nest

Grades 4 through 8 | Two Hour Program

This program is especially suited for gifted and talented students. Arrangements can be made to extend this program to three hours. *This program can be customized to focus on medieval architecture and the attributes of castles. Come and visit the 43-acre estate of William K. Vanderbilt II. While learning architectural terminology and the history of the house, students will view a slide show explaining the construction of this beautiful Spanish Revival mansion. They will learn how the estate reflects Vanderbilt’s global interests, wealth and lifestyle, why the site was chosen and how the house was constructed. Students will tour the mansion and courtyard “hunting” for architectural elements considering how they can be used for esthetic as well as practical purposes. A visit to the model room will give the students a sense of proportion, form and function. Using their newfound knowledge, the students will design an architectural element of their own inspiration.

Animal Homes and Habitats

Grades 1 through 4 | Two hour program

Students will observe a variety of exciting animals in their habitats through the use of our wildlife dioramas. The rainforest, grasslands, and polar regions will be discussed along with the importance of conservation and environmental protection. Students will discover how animals adapt to their natural habitats and what is necessary for all living things to survive. They will take part in a “hands-on” examination of animal specimens including horns, antlers, emu and ostrich eggs, snake vertebrae, bison jaw, and teeth. Using their knowledge of animals and the habitats they have studied, students will create their own miniature museum diorama complete with a replica animal.

Planetarium Programs

Exploring the Solar System

Grades 5 – 8

Take a tour of the Solar System and beyond by flying first-class aboard the Vanderbilt Planetarium’s Konica Minolta Star Projector, with full-dome video and surround-sound. To prepare for the journey, educators introduce geocentric and heliocentric models of the Solar System, plus the formation of the Solar System and the origin of the Earth’s star, the Sun. Students blast off into space to examine the unique characteristics of the Sun, the planets and their moons.

Educators introduce comets, asteroids, the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt of deep-space objects. Using up-to-date information from the Hubble Space Telescope, various space probes and the Mars Rovers, educators examine the latest information about these objects in the Solar System.

Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth’s Climate Engine

Grades 6 – 12

Narrated by Liam Neeson
Dynamic Earth explores concepts and terms essential to understanding climate: the relationship of Earth and the Sun; life and the carbon cycle; plate tectonics and its role in the carbon cycle; comparison with Venus; and perspective on climate change.

This recorded program runs 25 minutes, followed by a 20-minute live star talk.


Grades 5 – 12

Narrated by Mark Hamill
Every star has a story. Some are as old as time, faint and almost forgotten. Others burn bright and end their lives in powerful explosions. New stars are created every day, born of vast clouds of gas and dust. Through every phase of their existence, stars release the energy that powers the Universe. Journey to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and experience both the awesome beauty and destructive power of Stars.

This recorded programs run about 26 minutes, preceded by a 15-minute live star talk.

Season of Light

Family audiences – December only

This program is an elegant, sophisticated, non-denominational presentation for the winter holiday season, and includes some astronomy. Season of Light looks at Northern winter constellations, explains why there are seasons, and explores the possible astronomical explanations for a “star over Bethlehem.”

This recorded program runs 35 minutes, preceded by a live, 15-minute star talk.

Let’s Look Up!

Pre-K & Kindergarten

Join us as “Stormy the Cat” and “Rocket the Dog” introduce young students to the wonders of the sky. Let’s Look Up! shows children some of the objects they can see in the daytime and nighttime skies. After a beautiful sunrise, Stormy the Cat explains the concepts of the Earth rotating and orbiting around the Sun. From “Oscar the Sun,” students learn about the Sun through a song that explains its importance to Earth.

Students experience a mild rainstorm, see a rainbow, and learn what causes these phenomena. After sunset, Rocket begins a nighttime talk about the stars, constellations and the Moon. The students, with Stormy and Rocket, blast off into space on an imaginary journey through the Solar System to visit the planets.

Space Adventure on the Moon

Grades 1 – 2

What is the Harvest Moon? What month is known as the Wolf Moon? Why does the Moon sometimes look so big and other times so small? The answers can be found in this basic introduction to the nighttime sky. Space Adventure begins with a discussion of the Sun, the Earth’s closest star. Students learn why the Sun seems to rise in the East and set in the West. Educators discuss the Sun’s properties and its effect on weather through the Water Cycle.

Students experience a thunderstorm as it passes through the Planetarium. After sunset, students view the current night sky and discuss the visible planets and constellations. The night-sky discussion also explores the Moon’s origin and its changing phases as it orbits the Earth. Included are the origins of the names of each monthly Moon phase. The program includes a trip to the Moon to explore the features of the lunar surface. Students will see imagery of astronauts from various Apollo lunar missions performing experiments on gravity and exploring the Moon’s surface.

Take a Wild Ride through the Solar System

Grades 1 – 3

What is the difference between stars and planets? Is the Sun a star? How do moons differ from planets? This program answers these questions, and begins by showing the night sky and comparing stars and planets to note their basic characteristics. During sunrise, students observe morning twilight, and educators discuss how light bends and scatters through the atmosphere. Students learn how to use ROYGBIV as a tool to explain the phenomena.

Take a Wild Ride shows that the Earth rotates as it orbits the Sun, and educators explain the Sun’s characteristics and its effects on the Earth through weather and the Water Cycle. After a brief thunderstorm, students observe the effects of light pollution on the night sky. The program concludes with a star trip through the Solar System and a visit to each of the planets to experience their unique properties.

The Vital Triangle

Grades 4 – 6

What effect does the Moon have on the Earth? What causes an eclipse? Why are there seasons? To answer these questions and others, this program focuses on the interrelationship among the Sun, Earth and Moon. The Vital Triangle investigates the Moon’s origin and includes an observation and discussion of the Moon’s changing phases in its orbit around the Earth. Also explored: how the Sun emits light, heat and energy.

Students experience the Sun’s energy in the form of weather and a passing thunderstorm. With this information, students see the effect of the Sun and Moon on the planet Earth. Other topics: reasons for the seasons, tides, eclipses, rotation and revolution. The program ends with a star trip through the Solar System.

Earth, Moon & Sun – NEW!

Grades 3-4 (45-minute program)

This fast-paced and fun pre-recorded Planetarium show explores lunar phases, and lunar and solar eclipses. Also covered are the characteristics of the Earth, Moon, and Sun – including craters formed by asteroid and meteor impacts, Maria (seas), mountains and NASA’s historic lunar landings.

This program includes a live star talk that explores the reasons for the seasons and covers the constellations and planets.

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