Kaitlin Ehret sits on the stairs in Horizon Hall

Meet the Bell’s Planetarium Outreach Educator

Kaitlin Ehret Travels the State with the ExploraDome

Published02/19/2020

Favorite things about working with the ExploraDome

My favorite part of being out with the ExploraDome is being able to share my passion for astronomy with other people. The little moments where a class says “whoa” in sync as we look at a nebula or the full night sky (without light pollution!) makes each show meaningful. I love it when a guest has a thousand questions they want to ask me about astronomy, simply because they’ve not had access to someone who might know the answers before. I also enjoy the ability that I have in this role to create shows for the public that tie in current events in astronomy and space flight.

Things I learned at the U that prepared me for this job

The experiences that the physics program at the U provides for students to do their own research taught me that research wasn’t what I was interested in—even though I had been telling myself I should be! That realization opened the door for me to begin exploring the realm of science communication, where I found what comes pretty naturally to me. Throughout my time at the U I also learned the value of perseverance—just like in my degree work, not every day is easy. The ability to push through those days and come back excited and ready for the next is a skill that has served me very well so far.

blue and purple nebula with white stars
"The little moments where a class says "whoa" in sync as we look at a nebula or the full night sky (without light pollution!) makes each show meaningful."

Things that surprise me in my work

I’m surprised by how many kids haven’t seen a full night sky—it makes sense, with so many people living in cities, but I never expected it before working with the ExploraDome.

Highlights from new ExploraDome content

I’m working on developing a show that will teach about climate change in a way that empowers students (and adults!). It will be a location-based show that will have specifics for each region of Minnesota, and students will spend much of the show discussing potential solutions on every scale.

How my background helps me in my role here

I grew up on a farm in Eastern Minnesota in the Withrow/Hugo area, which has allowed me to be able to connect to audiences in other areas of rural Minnesota on a more personal level. Having the background to discuss topics from a different point of focus allows me to make each show as special as it can be for the people I’m with.

How I got into my field

I’m not quite sure how I became interested in astronomy. I know my father was a part of it—he has a master’s in physics but a soft spot for astronomy, particularly the Moon landing! He actually managed to convince my mom to have their wedding on the anniversary of the first Moon landing so that he would remember what day their anniversary was. We went camping a lot as a family, and Dad and I would stay up late to watch the stars. I remember him telling me constellation stories occasionally.

stars
"The stars from the farm were always bright and clear, and I would wander the farm at night with our dog and simply watch the sky."

I became more interested in astronomy in high school, which paired well with my seeming inability to go to sleep before 2 am! The stars from the farm were always bright and clear, and I would wander the farm at night with our dog and simply watch the sky. I do that still when I visit home, although our dog is no longer around and I definitely don’t stay up until 2 am anymore.

I know I definitely have my mother to thank for my aptitude for teaching. She’s a kindergarten teacher in the Stillwater district and my style of teaching, “teacher presence,” and communication styles all bear a strong similarity to hers.