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Our Location in the Universe

Our Location in the Universe is a virtual and hybrid web-based pilot project collaboration of Art Pod, Astronomy Studies Group, Burckhalter School, and Project Directors JoAnn Gillerman and John Panagos to create an extracurricular program that provides a unique web based, distance learning, astronomy, art, and virtual reality curriculum for K-12 students. This Project was funded with support of the Brinker Family Foundation, Rich and Barbara Thompson, Janice Craik in honor of Ken Craik, Astronomy Studies Group and Second Evening Art.

JoAnn Gillerman © 1995

Nadivalaya Yantra (Hemispherical Sundial) at Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, India - Circa 1734

JoAnn Gillerman © 2020

Cesar Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar, Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley, California, USA - c 2011

Video, Photographs and Pictures on website

JoAnn Gillerman (Video/VR/Photographs/illustrations and credited images)
John Panagos (photographs credited)
K-5 Astronomy Studies Group - Artworks (listed and credited)

Project Description

Using virtual space, fun exercises that combine art, science, culture, technology, astronomy related information, Virtual Reality, and global astronomy sites, Our Location in the Universe curriculum supports the idea of micro to macro to creatively engage multi-generational and diverse participants in STEAM (STEM+ART) education, art, science and culture.

Curriculum | Exercises
Sample of Customized Virtual Workshop below (2020-2021)
Workshop may be Virtual, Hybrid and In-person
customized for hands-on art making related to science/astronomy


Mapping Project: start with Micro and top view perspective

  • Using Google Earth (Geoeye 1 Satellite and NASA's Landsat Sattalites) - Virtually Travel Explorations of archeoastronomy locations on Earth

  • Starting at Your Familiar/Current Location (i.e. Burckhalter School, Oakland, CA), Zoom out discussing geographical concepts.

  • Field Trips and Virtually "travel" will start from Burckhalter, Oakland, CA (where you are now) and "travel" to varied locations increasingly farther away: including Solar Calendars in Berkeley, CA, to Global Locations like Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, India, Chichen Itza, Mexico, and Cahokia Mounds, USA.

  • There will be introductory presentations (related science/culture) at each "travel" location

  • Science Presentations will include general (and specific) natural astronomy concepts such as day/night, shadows. length of day, season, etc.

  • Presentations will be followed by students' Q&A

  • Homework: Students can learn more about their favorite site/location/focus/topic of their interest and related astronomy concepts


Final Art / Science Projects (with support as needed):

  • Any medium! Draw a picture, take a picture, do a very short video, write something about your favorite site/place, make sound (on video) inspired by (that comes into your mind) when you explore your favorite site. To get students thinking creatively about one of the sites, ask questions: (Q: How do you feel seeing your selected site? Why did you choose this location/site?, what do you like about this site? What's the most interesting thing to you at this location?)

  • Draw a map of your same favorite place - or a picture of your favorite location.

  • Submit your art piece and a map to the project and tell us WHY you like and chose your favorite location

  • Make a planet - choose a planet in our solar system to briefly research and create!

  • Draw the horizon during our Field Trip

  • You will share your artwork projects during our Virtual Zoom Sessions, and your work will be included in "Our Location in the Universe" website, and in the 360/VR VIDEO.

Each Student was given a VR Headset so they can see their art works in a Virtual Reality Video. ArtPod will created a short cinematic 360/VR video accessible through this website to the K-5 Astronomy Studies Group students and the public.


Art Project: For fun, if you want, you can decorate the OUTSIDE (!) of your VR Headset using stickers, tape, or other creative means to personalize it to you!

Credits and Collaborators, Supporters

Astronomy Studies Group, Burckhalter School,

NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassadors Program,


Documentation of Project

Exploring this "Our Location in the Universe" Website provides documentation of the pilot project Our Location in the Universe, a collaboration of ArtPod (nonprofit 501c3/CEO/Director JoAnn Gillerman) and The K-9 Astronomy Studies Group 2021 (Founder/Director John Panagos). Our Location in the Universe is a virtual, web-based, hybrid extracurricular summer program with an in-person Field Trip (as safe!) and a Virtual Reality (360/VR VIDEO) component that incorporates drawings (art) created by participating ASG students. Curriculum and content includes multi-generational and age specific science (astronomy and related), art, culture and technology (VR). At the completion of this project, each ASG student was given their own VR Headset to keep, to explore their own art work and more in this immersive context. Below are links to "Student Art Works" (drawings) created in their intensive one-week of Zoom distance learning classes exploring solar related locations around the world, geo-location mapping, calendars (Meridian/Horizon), space and the planets, scale from micro to macro, and much more. An in-person Field Trip to the outdoors Solar Calendars, Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley, CA provided opportunity for students to draw the horizon at solar noon (!) and be given their VR Headsets, in preparation for the 360/VR VIDEO (link below). Special thanks to the families of the ASG 2021 students, and additional support and partnerships listed below helped make this project possible.

Students in the K-9 Astronomy Studies Group 2021 receive their VR Headsets (to keep) during Field Trip to the Solar Calendars, Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley, CA (June 2021)

Science / Art / Culture / Technology

Brinker Family Foundation

Second Evening Art

Astronomy Studies Group

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