You would not normally expect to hear a movie geared towards preschoolers to be described as the most beautiful thing she has ever seen by a grown woman, but that is exactly what one Mom said upon leaving One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure at the National Air and Space Museum. Shown in the Museum’s Einstein Planetarium, One World, One Sky is projected on the theatre’s enormous domed screen making the movie a one-of-kind experience for the museum’s young visitors.
Children start their adventure on the familiar terrain of Sesame Street with Big Bird, who is soon joined by Elmo and Elmo’s friend Hu Hu Zhu, a visiting Muppet from China. Big Bird describes how your imagination can take you anywhere and Elmo and Hu Hu Zhu use their imaginations to travel to the moon explore the stars, sky, and mysteries of gravity. Elmo and Hu Hu Zhu also make a stop in China to explore how the sky looks the same there as it does on Sesame Street.
Along the way, children are introduced to various shapes, colors, and exposed to a fair amount of Mandarin. My two-year-old has been a fan of One World, One Sky since she was about a year old and kids as old as six seem to love the movie just as much. Even children who have outgrown Sesame Street will still enjoy this unique planetarium experience.
With a running time of only 20 minutes, One World, One Sky is short enough for any child to enjoy. One World, One Sky is free and plays at 10:30 a.m. every Friday and Sunday plus the first Saturday of the month. Tickets are free and are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis at the Einstein Planetarium’s ticket desk starting when the museum opens at 10am. Weekends are a popular time to see One World, One Sky and frequently sell out.
Friday showings are not as popular, but on rare occasions school field trips may claim a majority of available tickets. Whenever you go, it is a good idea to plan on being at the museum when it opens at 10am and get your tickets right away. If you see the movie on a Friday or Saturday, the Air and Space Museum’s popular Flights of Fancy story time immediately follows the show. Attending both makes for a wonderfully fun and full morning.
The Air and Space Museum’s Flights of Fancy program introduces children to stories about flight and space right in the heart of it all. Led by Ann Caspari, children attend this engaging story time in a museum gallery related to the book’s topic. We have heard a book about stars read aloud surrounded by highly detailed photos of stars and a book about space exploration read in the shadow of a rocket ship. When possible, story times are held in front of large screens that project images from the book being read to add to the experience. Ann is very good at making storytimes interactive and often asks children questions or offers them small props to use to help act-out a story.
The story is always followed by a related craft. Our favorite crafts include rocket ships made out of paper towel rolls and hot air balloons made out of berry baskets and pipe cleaners. There is occasionally an activity after the story, and on a couple of occasions we have been lucky enough to have playtime with a parachute and dress up in aviator glasses and scarves after a book.
Flights of Fancy is free and is held on Thursdays and Fridays at 11am and Saturdays at 11am and 1:30pm. Length varies based upon the story and craft, but usually runs about 15 to 20 minutes. Location within the museum changes based upon the theme so you should ask at the information desk where story time will be held when you arrive. The Flights of Fancy program also runs at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
The Air and Space museum is located near the L’Enfant Plaza and Smithsonian stops. There is metered parking around the museum. Demand is high, but if you arrive before the museum opens at 10am you will have better luck finding a spot nearby.
Photo by Jamie Davis Smith.