Carter Observatory is the National Observatory of New Zealand and was opened in 1941. For more than ten years the Observatory has maintained an active education program for visiting school groups (see Andrews, 1991), and education now forms one of its four functions. The others relate to astronomical research; public astronomy; and the preservation of New Zealands astronomical heritage (see Orchiston and Dodd, 1995).
Since the acquisition of a small Zeiss planetarium and associated visitor centre in 1992, the public astronomy and education programs at the Carter Observatory have witnessed a major expansion (see Orchiston, 1995; Orchiston and Dodd, 1996). A significant contributing factor was the introduction by the government of a new science curriculum into New Zealand schools in 1995 (Science in the New Zealand Curriculum, 1995). “Making Sense of Planet Earth and Beyond” comprises one quarter of this curriculum, and the “Beyond” component is astronomy.