Client: Tales of the Maya Skies project, Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California

Authors: Michelle Phillips, Katherine Ramage, Dawn Robles, Mark St. John

Type: Report

Publication: June 2010

Maya Skies External Evaluation Report (pdf, 64 pages)


In 2007, the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California, in collaboration with LodeStar Astronomy Center, and the Institute for Learning Innovation received a grant from the National Science Foundation to design, create, research, and distribute a planetarium show called Tales of the Maya Skies. The project was an ambitious effort that set out to accomplish multiple goals, including the production of an innovative full dome planetarium show, the demonstration of an innovative production model, and sharing lessons learned with the field.

The Tales of the Maya Skies project contracted Inverness Research as the summative evaluators of the project in 2007. In this role, Inverness studied the production process and model, communicated with consortium institutions about their interactions with the project, and conducted interviews with the staff of Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) about their role in and work on the project. Post-production, Inverness gathered feedback and different perceptions of the show from three different groups. We surveyed audience members and conducted focus groups about the public’s perceptions of the show, interviewed point people at the consortium planetaria, and elicited reviews of the show from outside experts in astronomy and Maya culture and cosmology. The evaluation uses data from these multiple sources to assess how closely the viewer experience matches the developers’ intentions.

This report presents an overview of the production model and process, presents different perspectives on the content and value of the show, reflects on the experience and participation of the consortium institutions, and draws lessons learned about making a full dome digital show, using a culturally-based storyline as the context for presenting some basic present day Western astronomy concepts. It concludes by identifying lessons learned about the production model and the production process for the benefit of the larger field of planetaria. The intended audience for this report is the NSF, the major participants in the project, and the planetarium field at large, including but not limited to the Maya Skies consortium members. Results of this summative study will be posted on fulldome.org and informalscience.org and will provide an independent validation for the educational potential of the Maya Skies show and a full description of the production issues involved in creating it.

Intended Audience

Science Education Media Producers, Museum Educators, Science Educators and Administrators, Reform Leaders and Funders, and general public.

Sponsored by

NSF award number 0610253


Any and all errors are claimed by the authors of this document, Inverness Research, Inc.

Distribution Policy

Inverness Research Inc. grants permission to print and distribute copies.