Fernbank Science Center was completed and dedicated in December 1967. It is an integral part of the DeKalb County School District in Atlanta, Georgia. It is an extension to the regular elementary, secondary, adult and post secondary school program. Fernbank Science Center is designed to enhance the scientific literacy and the related proficiency of the lay, student and professional populations of DeKalb County, the metropolitan area of Atlanta and the state of Georgia.
A visit to Fernbank Science Center offers to students and the public adventures in areas of life, physical and space science. Facilities include a five hundred seat planetarium, observatory, exhibit hall, meteorology and seismology laboratory, aerospace education laboratory, reference library and home composting demonstration site and gardens.
The Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium provides a unique opportunity to learn about the night sky. A celestial theater in the round, utilizing the complex Zeiss Mark V planetarium projector and a variety of special-effects projectors guide the audience through the wonders of the universe. The 70-ft diameter planetarium, one of the largest in the United States, is dedicated to teaching and public enrichment.
The Dr. Ralph L. Buice, Jr. Observatory houses a 0.9 meter (36-inch) Cassegrain reflector beneath a 10 meter (30 ft.) dome. It is the largest telescope in the southeastern United States and one of the largest instruments ever dedicated to education and public viewing. Free public observations are offered every Thursday and Friday evening from 9:00 p.m. (or dark) until 10:30 p.m. (weather permitting). An astronomer is available to position the telescope and interact with students and the public.
The exhibit hall at Fernbank Science Center spans some 9000 square feet and circles the planetarium theater. The theme for the entire exhibit area reflects the slogan of the Science Center: “Where Science Becomes an Adventure.” Within these areas are presented numerous displays which deal with a whole array of scientific concepts. Home to a live animal exhibit of reptiles, amphibians and arachnids, the exhibit hall at Fernbank Science Center is utilized as an integral part of our instructional offerings. Objects and concepts presented in the displays are requested by the instructional staff to assist in the explanation of scientific phenomena in their classes and programs. The exhibit hall therefore functions as a three-dimensional teaching classroom, a unique feature that makes Fernbank Science Center such an extraordinary facility for DeKalb County Schools. In addition to the instructional utilization of the exhibits, the universal message presented here is an invaluable community resource. The exhibit hall is open daily to public free of charge.
The Meteorology and Seismology Laboratory houses equipment used for recording atmospheric and seismological events and has Internet access through which weather and seismic information may be obtained from a variety of sources. It is a teaching laboratory for elementary, middle school, high school and teacher in-service classes. Elementary and middle school classes, the Scientific Tools and Techniques (STT) program and teacher in-service programs are taught during the school year. During the summer, teacher in-service, public programming and other special events are offered.
The Aerospace Education Laboratory (AEL) is a state of the art, electronically enhanced, computerized classroom that puts cutting-edge technology at the fingertips of students in middle and high school; it engages students in real world challenges in both aeronautics and space exploration. The AEL houses real aerospace hardware and software including an Advanced Flight Simulator, a laboratory-grade research wind tunnel, a short-wave radio receiver, and hand-held global positioning systems (GPS) for aviation. Classes conducted in the AEL use different scenarios to cover all of NASA’s science and technical missions. In addition to serving as a laboratory for classes, the AEL also engages community groups, outside organizations and the general public in exciting outreach programs conducted year-round. The AEL workstations are equipped with aerospace hardware and software which simulates real-world challenges in the areas of aeronautics and microgravity.
The Fernbank Science Center library, located in the main building of Fernbank Science Center, houses a wide range of materials and services for the benefit of students, teachers and the public. The materials are available to anyone for reference use only. Library staff is available to classes and the public who require assistance with detailed research. Collection consists primarily of materials dealing with science and technology. A scattering of information on other topics is provided as a resource for research and projects. Astronomy, botany, ecology and horticulture are the “strengths” of the collection. Information is provided in a variety of formats: books, periodicals, and microfiche. Access to scientific articles is available through GALILEO (Georgia Learning Online).
The Home Composting Demonstration Site was funded under a grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The site, located behind Fernbank Science Center’s main building, includes numerous types of working compost bins that homeowners can easily make or buy themselves. The site also includes a vegetable garden, a butterfly garden and different species of plants used for landscaping purposes.