Key Stage 3 Programmes at the Royal Observatory


Visitor notice: We are pleased to announce that Royal Museums Greenwich is reopening. To find out more about which sites will be open and how to plan your visit, click here.

Essential information

Key stage: 
Key Stage 3
School subject: 
Royal Observatory
Session times: 
Session price: 
£90 (maximum 30 students)

For KS3 groups we offer either a Discovery Day, Study Day or Space Spectacular Day programme.

Our education programme explained

There can be a lot to think about when organising a school trip so we have come up with a ‘to-do’ list to help you to make sure you have everything you need to make your visit to the Royal Observatory Greenwich as enjoyable as possible. This can be found at the back of the Secondary Programme Guide where you can also find full session outlines too.

PDF icon Secondary programme guide 2016-17

If you have any questions or would like to check availability, please contact our Bookings team: | Tel: 0208 312 6608 (The Bookings office is open 10.00–16.00).

Frequently Asked Questions

Our programme is very diverse so we are often asked questions about it. Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the KS3 schools programme. If you have any more questions please contact the booking team as they will be more than happy to help.

How much does a visit cost?

Study days now run every Thursday and are by far the most popular choice for our secondary school visitors. The cost of a study day is £90 for 30 students and includes a: planetarium show, workshop, masterclass session and self-guided gallery tours.

If you would prefer to come along to only a planetarium show or workshop you can do although this would need to be on a non-study day. The workshops are free of charge and the planetarium shows carry a charge of £90 for 30 students.

Are there activities that can follow on from my visit?

Yes, lots! We have a wide range of resources available for you to download and use for free before, during and after your visit. Find out more about: our teacher forum, a growing collection of curriculum-linked classroom resources, videos, podcasts and even blogs.

Find out more about our teacher forum and other resources

Search and download our teacher resources

Do you have a lunch space?

Yes. We have a lunch room that can be booked by groups taking part in our full day programme. Please speak to our Bookings team for more information.

What is new this year?

The 2016/17 is set to be a very exciting year with lots of new things going on such as: 

  • NEW – Outreach: Until this year we haven’t been able to offer outreach visits in schools. However, in the 2016/17 academic year we are releasing a small number of bookable secondary outreach slots so if you are interested please contact Liz Avery for more details. 

  • NEW - Maths Festival: We will be running a Maths Festival on selected Fridays through February and March 2017. Maths Festival Days are aimed at KS3 students and will consist of a planetarium show (Maths and Beyond), a workshop (Maths and the Milky Way) and visits to our galleries. If you are looking for a way to connect maths to the real world using astronomy as the context then these are the sessions for you.

  • NEW – Planetarium Show and Workshop: Space Spectacular week in March 2017 sees the premiere of our new planetarium show The Final Frontier along with our new interactive quiz workshop A Question of Space. If you are looking for ways to enthuse as well as stretch your students then these days could be just the ticket.

What is a Discovery Day?

Discovery Days are designed to be flexible visit days that run weekly (except during school holidays and Space Spectacular weeks). 

It is up to you the sessions you select for your Discovery Day; you could choose from:

  • A planetarium show
  • A workshop
  • A gallery visit
  • All of these 

What is a Space Spectacular Day?

These run three times a year and coincide with International Space Week (Autumn 2016), National Science Week (Spring 2017) and just after the Summer Solstice (Summer 2017). See Space Spectacular and Study Day dates 2016-2017 for a list of dates.

Space Spectacular Week Sessions

We are Stars (planetarium show – October 2016)

This beautiful show explores some of the most fundamental questions of all time; what are we made of and where did we come from? Narrated by Andy Serkis this animated show investigates the origins of life and how life on Earth connects to the evolution of our Universe. 

The Final Frontier (planetarium show – March and July 2017)

March 2017 will see the arrival of The Final Frontier, a brand new planetarium show for KS3 audiences that will run during Space Spectacular weeks. Details will be released in late 2016 so keep your eyes peeled for more information.

A Question of Space (interactive quiz workshop)

This session is an interactive quiz where students have to vote with a keypad to try and get the questions correct. It involves lots of demonstrations, team work and gives the brain a real workout.

What is a Study Day?

The Study Day offer is exclusively for secondary groups with specific sessions for KS3, KS4 and post-16 students themed around Astronomy.

The theme of a Study Day changes throughout the year (see here for details of the schedule) but the structure is always the same as a Discovery Day with one extra session. They offer the options of a planetarium show, a workshop and gallery visit as well as a 45-minute study session; the Out of this World Careers masterclass. 

Out of this World Careers Masterclass

In this session students take part in a number of activities designed to show them the variety of careers that exist within the STEM sector. The session will be delivered by one of the astronomy team who will speak to the group about: their own career path and how they applied physical concepts to their research, what they like and dislike about their job and what opportunities it has given them. They will also answer any questions the students have.

What sessions are available for KS3?

We offer planetarium shows and workshops for KS3 audiences. Take a look at the information below to find out more about them and when they run.

Planetarium Shows

Shows take place in our state-of-the-art digital Peter Harrison Planetarium and are delivered live by Royal Observatory astronomers. Providing an inspiring, immersive and interactive learning experience, our state-of-the-art digital planetarium enable students to explore the day and night-time sky; fly through our solar system; or enjoy visually stunning pre-recorded shows about latest discoveries in astronomy. 

Each planetarium show lasts 45 minutes and can accommodate up to two classes of 30 students.

Meet the Neighbours (45 minutes)

This show enables students to examine the role of light and shadow in the Sun-Earth-Moon system, before taking a guided tour through our solar system and beyond. 

Solar System, Galaxy, Universe (45 minutes)

Explore the scale of the Solar System, galaxy and Universe and how we measure it, investigating the structure of the universe from the smallest planets to the largest galactic superclusters. 

Maths and Beyond! (45 mins. Shown on Maths Festival Days only)

Maths and Beyond! is a modular show, produced in-house by our Planetarium Astronomers. Schools will be able to build their own three-part show from six available 10 minute modules, resulting in a 30 minute school show. The modules variously target key areas in the KS3 Maths curriculum and relate mathematical principles to problem solving in astronomy, as well as more down-to-Earth situations! Each module poses a big question about space that we’ll need maths to answer, such as “How Weird is the Sun?” and “How Does the Sun Shine?” Once everyone’s experienced the power of maths in solving such big puzzles, the last minute of each show includes an animated cartoon with a friendly astronaut to relate the principles to practical problems here on Earth, such as calculating how many songs can fit on an MP3 player. This highly adaptable show can be cut down or extended, and is presented live by a Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomer.


Our astronomer-led interactive workshops have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and discover new things. A combination of sound, film, large scale demonstrations and team activities are used to explain different scientific concepts.

Action Reaction: Forces In Space (45 minutes)

Students explore Newton’s laws of motion and the origins of different types of force in various astrophysical objects including gravity, the electrostatic force and magnetism. They will see a series of demonstrations of these concepts and conduct experiments investigating the effects of air pressure and electromagnetic induction. They will also carry out some simple calculations to further explore these important concepts. 

Seasons, Phases and Eclipses (45 minutes)

In this interactive session students use both large scale astronomical models and digital simulations to review their understanding of the Sun-Earth-Moon system. They explore concepts of light, shadow, reflection and transmission and combine their knowledge to explain the more complex natural phenomena of the seasons, the phases of the Moon, and solar and lunar eclipses. Students are tested at the end with a short interactive quiz.

Exploring Exoplanets (45 minutes)

In this hands-on ICT-based session, students learn how astronomers discover solar systems around distant stars by making and analyzing the measurements of their own model exoplanet system. 

Solar System and Beyond (45 minutes)

Students use astronomical software and real astronomical data in this interactive ICT-based session to travel through the solar system, investigating the orbits of the planets in our solar system. They will also explore how the mathematics used to describe planetary orbits has been used to discover a massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy. 

Maths in the Milky Way (45 minutes)

Students will explore the scale and variety of planets in our Solar System and other planetary systems in our Milky Way Galaxy, using a range of mathematical techniques. 

For full details of our KS3 sessions see our PDF icon Secondary programme guide 2016-17

Book a visit

Study days run every Thursday and are the most popular choice for our secondary school visitors. The cost of a study day is £90 for 30 students and includes a: planetarium show, workshop, masterclass session and self-guided gallery tours.
If you would prefer to come along to only a planetarium show or workshop you can do although this would need to be on a non-study day. The workshops are free of charge and the planetarium shows carry a charge of £90 for 30 students.

Sessions cannot be booked online, this is always done via an email or phone enquiry in the first instance.

To book a visit, telephone 020 8312 6608 or e-mail

Royal Observatory schools booking information

Plan your schools visit