Shepaug Valley School to reopen planetarium to give students and the public “better access to the universe”

WASHINGTON – Residents of Litchfield County who want to learn more about the stars and planets will soon not have to travel far to do so – Shepaug Valley School is reopening its planetarium.

The planetarium, which will open in January, will be open to students in Region 12 – which serves students from Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington – as well as the general public. All the programs offered will be free.

The programs will include topics such as the birth of a star, the sun, different solar systems and black holes.

The planetarium, which can accommodate 30 to 40 people per session, is centrally located in what the district calls the Shepaug Valley School’s “mall”.


It opened in 1972. However, it ceased to operate in the late 1990s due to the very expensive equipment required for its operation.

“In terms of budgets and prices, the old devices that were used … it’s so different today with the technology available and the improvements that exist,” said Megan Bennett, superintendent of School District 12 of the region. “Now, since things are so digitized, it seems like a very appropriate time to bring this back. “

The job of bringing the planetarium back to life involves painting and obtaining new furniture and technology.

Region 12 is teaming up with Digistar, a company based in Utah, to make sure they have all the equipment for the planetarium. Digistar offers a series of lessons the district can choose to incorporate into their existing curriculum.

The planetarium will allow Shepaug’s students to have “a richer experience when they discover the universe and create a submersible experience,” Bennett said.

In addition, there will be public performances, class outings and extracurricular activities for students of all levels.

“This will allow people to have better access to the universe – directly in our halls,” Bennett said. “We recognize the need to bring the public back to our buildings as we slowly come out of COVID. “

The planetarium’s biggest expense is just on the hardware itself, Bennett said. The cost of the repairs is $ 108,000, which was paid in the 2020-2021 budget.

“As the district was unable to conduct field visits last year due to COVID-19, we were able to use this position to purchase Digistar equipment,” Bennett said. “It works because we can now organize field visits internally and we don’t have to worry about some of the things COVID is taking away from us. We are creating the opportunities now on campus.

To make the planetarium work, the district will work with a Washington-based program called Slooh, which offers live and online telescope feeds of astronomical events.

“We have teamed up with Mike (Paolucci, CEO and Founder of Slooh) so that our students have access to the different telescopes,” Bennett said. “Mike and I are trying to figure out if we can hook up some of the telescopes so that there is an immersive experience right in our planetarium.”

Shepaug Valley School’s media communications specialist will coordinate the regular operation of the planetarium once it opens.

Region 12 will inform the public of the dates of its planetarium programs on its website, region-12.org.

The planetarium will be a vehicle in which students can get interested and take an interest in “what the world is beyond our own,” Bennett said. “It is this treasure that has been hidden in storage.”

[email protected] 203-948-9802


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Arline J. Mercier