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An Experience in Italy
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 Stephen McNeil (white sweatshirt) was the 2012 winner ShiAnne Kattner, 2015 winner  

Left: From the 2012 Competition: The Danti Planetarium Team from left: Abdelhalim El Hilali, Stephen McNeil from Brigham Young University, Luca di Bitonto, Silvia Mazzoni, Simonetta Ercoli, Marco Bagaglia, and Heather Smith. Photo by Rosemary McNeil. On Right, ShiAnne Kattner from Casper Planetarium (Wyoming), the 2015 winner, at Castello di Brescia. Photo by Loris Ramponi.



New annual application deadline: July 31

Week in Italy Logo



A Week* in Italy for an American Planetarium Operator

Each year, in the spring, the Serafino Zani Astronomical Observatory (Lumezzane/Brescia) hosts an American planetarium operator, whose native tongue is English, to work with high school students of English.

Applications are requested from educators or astronomers who work with any of the various models of planetariums.

The International Planetarium Society (IPS) endorses this initiative as an excellent opportunity for professional development and cultural exchange.

The winner will:

  • Expected to be available for at least 10 days for the experience.
  • Be asked to provide a curriculum vita and the text of lesson plan(s) with activities and stories.
  • Be asked to prepare the lesson for an analog projector, but it may be augmented with digital visuals on a flash drive. Each lesson will be at least 60 minutes in length and can be about traditional topics for planetaria such as: daily motion, orienteering, latitude motion, solstice and equinox, constellations, mythology. and so on.
  • Be asked to make a public presentation. The presenter will provide an introduction with slides about U.S. experiences in the diffusion of astronomy and then a lesson.
  • Receive a maximum of $1000 for transportation from the United States. Bed and meals will be provided during this professional visit. (Additional expenses for tourist travel, hotel and meals must be paid by the applicant.)
  • Need to be available for a maximum of 10-12 days in Italy in conjunction with the Italian Association of Planetaria (PlanIt) yearly conference.
  • Be asked to make presentations in a minimum of 3 cities (maximum 5 cities). 

All lessons and presentations will be conducted in the English language. The preliminary text of the lesson is required so that teachers will have ample time to work with their students before the experience. Be prepared to teach the lesson at either a basic or an advanced level. Some classes are extremely interested but do not know a lot of astronomy and others have studied astronomy in depth.

Most of the students will have had two to four years study of English and will understand the spoken word if you speak clearly and deliberately. They have a good sense of humor and certainly display the usual excitement about the planetarium.

Opportunity to tour

The expected length of stay in Italy is 10 days, and participants, of course, may further extend their stay at their own cost at their discretion. In addition, there will be time when there are no other engagements, thus providing an opportunity for touring the locale and nearby cities. For instance, Lumezzane is very rich in public astronomy with the Serafino Zani Astronomical Observatory, four small planetaria, the Eureka Astronomical Center, and the National Archive of Planetaria.

The province of Brescia is very interesting with its natural landscapes and parks, three lakes, and a most important valley for prehistoric age stone engravings. Exciting artistic cities, such as Verona and Venice, are nearby and can be reached by taking a one- or two-hour train ride.

Culminating documentation

We request a final report be written by the American teacher, which will include the text of the high school lesson, comments from the students, and impressions of the experience.

Observatory Serafino Zani

Annual deadline

July 31 is the yearly deadline for the applicants of "An Astronomical Experience in Italy for an American Planetarium Operator." (Revised 10/2017)

Application Procedure:

  • Participants must send an application that includes your full name, complete address, year of birth, and your curriculum vitae.
  • Send this information along with a cover letter explaining why you wish to be considered for this experience.
  • You must also include the text of three lessons (or variations of the same lesson), with activities and stories, which you would like to present: (1) for students, (2) for teachers (3) and for the public.
  • Please include a list of specialized vocabulary, three mp3 audio recordings (of 3 minutes or less, on any astronomical topic) and/or any other relevant materials that you feel would strengthen your application.
  • Before applying it would be wise to consult some of the previous winners to ascertain the best approach. (See link to past winners below.)

By applying for this contest, you agree to release copyright of your original script and recordings and release the works under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0  International License, which makes your work public domain.

Send your application to:

Loris Ramponi
Osservatorio Serafino Zani
Via Bosca 24
25066 Lumezzane Italy
email: or

Opportunity to improve your application if reapplying:

Participants who were not winners this year may reapply. You have one or two months to prepare and send auxiliary materials that you would use during your lessons in Italy. Many unsuccessful applicants neglect to send a complete proposal. It is always wise to consult some previous winners to ascertain the best approach.

To be competitive, you must at least include the text of three lessons (or variations of the same lesson), with activities and stories, that you would like to present (1) for students, (2) for teachers, (3) and for the public. Please include a list of specialized vocabulary, three mp3 audio recordings (of 3 minutes or less, on any astronomical topic) and any other relevant materials that you feel would strengthen your application.

The materials can be sent through the mail or, if you set up a method of easy retrieval for us, can be posted online and would include:

  • 20-25 images of your city, work location, family and activities. (These will be used before the lessons in Italy with the students.)
  • Samples of printed matter/leaflets from your institution/planetarium describing the programs available to your clients.

After these materials are received you will be asked to make contact and participate in a conversation via Skype with the organizers of the Week in Italy to present your work and next year’s proposal.

Address for using traditional mail:

Serafino Zani Study and Research Center, via Bosca 24, 25066 Lumezzane, Italy

Previous winners

A complete list of past winners of the "An Astronomical Experience in Italy for an American Planetarium Operator” (since 1995) can be found at

There are two formats available: a PowerPoint and a pdf. 

*OK, so it's 10 days in Italy. Or it can be Two Weeks in Italy. "A Week in Italy" is a lot easier to remember


2018 June 20

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