Astronomy
Homeschool Super Science Fridays
Instructional Unit
Mari Bryce
Jemima Crompton
Paula Hause
Jenna McCurry
Part 1 – Subject/Topic
The Astronomy unit consists of the following topics: the planets and their
distances from the sun; other objects in the solar system and how they affect the
earth; the phases of the moon; solar eclipses; constellations; comets; craters and the
differences between the earth and moon; and why/how scientists study space. The
Astronomy unit lessons are geared toward a class of fourth and fifth grade students.
The unit is created to last for two weeks, or ten class days. Each lesson is
approximately 40 minutes, with extra follow-up and elaboration activities. The unit is
based on standards and objectives that students should have accomplished in prior
grades, and builds on their prior knowledge.
Part 2 – Rationale/Purpose
The Astronomy unit will be of particular value to students because it allows
them to study a subject that is beyond their physical grasp. The knowledge students
will gain from this unit aligns with national and state standards. The design of each
lesson fits students’ needs through multi-sensory methods and inquiry learning. All of
the different learning styles are reached through this unit and accommodations for
students with disabilities are made. The Astronomy unit relates to students’ real world
concerns because it affects every part of their life. It builds awareness of the
environment around them and helps them to question the way their world and
universe is composed. The unit will help them to discover simple explanations for
complex concepts. The lessons are designed with the student in mind: the student is
an active inquirer through hands-on experience. The teacher acts as a guide and
facilitator, assisting students in discovering new concepts, as well as building on what
they already know.
Part 3 – Identification of Goals/Objectives
By the end of this unit, students will be able to identify and describe the
separate components that make up the universe, including the planets, the moon, the
sun, stars, and comets/asteroids/meteors. Students will also be able to identify
differences between the earth and the other objects of the solar system. Students will
be able to explain the motion of the objects in space. Students will be able to explain
how and why scientists study space and how the study of space has improved and will
continue to improve life on earth. A lot of the unit was based on two typical fourth
and fifth grade text books, Scott Foresman Science published in 2000. The Michigan
Curriculum Framework standards and benchmarks were also used to guide
instructional planet. The benchmarks for this unit are the following:
SCI.IV.4. LE. 1: Compare and contrast characteristics of the Sun, Moon, and
Earth
SCI.IV.4. LE. 2: Describe the motion of the Earth around the Sun and the
Moon around the Earth.
Part 4 – Unit Map/Plan
The eight lessons that make up this unit are placed in a specific order because
they build off of each other. The first lesson is about the planets and gives a small
introduction to studying the solar system. The second lesson is about other objects in
the solar system and how they affect the earth. Now the students learn about the sun
and its light on earth, and how the seasons and day and night are created by the
movement of the earth and sun. Students use the knowledge of the planets gained in
the first lesson to understand better where earth is located in reference to the sun.
The third lesson is about the moon and its phases. This also builds on students’
knowledge about how the sun and the planets move. In the first lesson, they learned
that some planets have moons, and they know that earth has one moon. In the fourth
lesson, students will learn about solar eclipses and the sun. This extends their
knowledge of other objects in the solar system/universe and adds to what they have
learned about the sun. The fifth lesson builds directly off of lesson four and discusses
constellations. Stars make up constellations, so students needed to know about the
stars before they could learn about the constellations. The sixth lesson explains what
a comet is. This helps students distinguish between what they learned about stars and
what other objects in the universe are. This lesson also ties directly to lesson seven,
which is about the moon’s surface, how craters are formed, and the differences
between the moon and earth. As students learn about the impactors that hit the
moon to make craters, they will already know what a comet is and can use that
knowledge to help them understand asteroids and meteors. The final lesson kind of
pulls of all of unit together by having students discover why scientists study space.
Students can now use all of the information they have gained through the eight
lessons and apply it to how it affects their lives and how studying the solar system and
the universe can improve life on earth.
Here is the chronological list of the eight lessons in the astronomy unit:
1. What are the planets like? (unit introduction/overview)
2. What other objects are in the solar system and how do they affect the
earth? (with special focus on seasons)
3. Why does the moon always look different and what causes its phases?
4. What are solar eclipses?
5. What are constellations?
6. What is a comet?
7. What is the surface of the moon like and why are there “holes” in it?
(how craters on the moon are formed)
8. Why do scientists study the solar system?
Part 5 – Daily Lesson Plans
Following are the eight lesson plans of the unit in chronological order.
Unit Lesson Plan 1
The Planets
Subject: Science
Secondary Subjects: Math & Language Arts
Grade Level: 4th/5th
Rationale:
Students most often know what the planets are, but they do not know the distance that
each planet is from the sun, nor specific characteristics of the planets. This lesson provides them
a way in which math skills and science are interconnected—as they discover new facts about
each planet, and are able to visualize how big the solar system really is.
Purpose:
To educate the students about each planet, and to visualize how large the solar system
really is.
Benchmarks:
SCI.I.1.el.2: Develop solutions to problems through reasoning, observation, and
investigation.
SCI.I.1.el.6: Construct charts and graphs and prepare summaries of observations.
SCI.V.4.el: All students will compare and contrast our planet and Sun to other
planets and star systems; describe and explain how objects in the solar system
move; explain scientific theories as to the origin of the solar system; and explain
how we learn about the universe. (Solar System, Galaxy, and Universe)
Concepts:
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Sun, distance
* See Concept Map
Objectives:
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TLW discover key facts about each planet.
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TLW identify the major bodies of this solar system.
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TLW measure and make a scale model of the planets and the sun
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TLW visualize how far apart the planets are from each other and the sun
Materials Needed:
-- 8 sets of Styrofoam balls (4 small balls, 2 medium, and 2 large balls in each set)
-- 8 yellow balloons
-- Sidewalk Chalk
-- Transparencies of the solar system
-- Summary sheets for each group
Strategies & Activities
Engage:
Student groups will then be presented with 9 balls, and a balloon of varying sizes and
colors. The teacher will then ask the students to gently handle the balls as they investigate the
balls, and as a group discuss what the sizes, colors, and number of the balls might mean. Student
groups will record their answers and thoughts on a sheet of paper. After approximately 5 minutes
of investigating, theorizing, and writing, the teacher will ask the students to present their ideas to
the class as a group. The teacher will write the main ideas of their presentations on the board.
The teacher will thank the students for presenting and state, "I need you all to place the balls
back in the bowl at the center of the table. We are starting a new unit that will last 2 weeks. This
unit focuses on ten objects that are round, are different sizes, and different colors. I need you all
to pay close attention to the transparencies because when we are done viewing them, I will ask
you to describe how the ten balls and the objects on the transparencies are related.
1. (3 min) Once the balls are put back in their containers, the teacher will begin placing
the transparencies on the overhead projector one at a time, but will not say anything
about them. The teacher should leave the transparencies up or approximately 10-15
seconds so that all can see them..
2. At the conclusion of the transparency presentation ask, "what is our new unit about?"
3.Take answers. The first answer will probably be right if they mention the solar system
or planets.
4. (3 min) Have students spend 3 minutes discussing this question with you group: 'How
are the ten balls related to the solar system?' Make sure that you can explain your
answer."
5. (3 min) Ask student groups to report to the class the connection between the balls and
the solar system. Give each group a chance to report even if one group has already stated
that the ten balls could represent the nine planets and the sun and that the sizes and colors
are similar to the ten planets and the sun. (i.e. the biggest ball is yellow, the medium sized
balls are red (Mars), blue (Earth), white (Venus) and so on.
Explore: (10 min)
State: "I need the people responsible for group materials to come to the front." Give
each student enough copies of the worksheet for each member of the group.
“ Let’s pretend you are a travel agent, and you want to get people to visit your planet.
Using the summaries of your planets, you are to pull any interesting facts about the planet you
think will attract others to your planet. You don’t have to use all the information; its your choice.
Once you are done, please review your advertisement that you created. Make it sound fun and
interesting. Remember its your job to make us want to come to visit your planet!
Elaborate: (15 min)
. “Next, let’s go outside. Everyone please put on your jackets, and follow me
outside.” Outside, draw a big circle, and label it as the sun. Next, have Mercury, measure out
their distance from the Sun. (Have each planet measure it out—tell the students to work together
to mark their planet. Once they are done measuring it out, have the students return to the sun.
After all the planets have been measured out, Start back at the sun, and walk to the first planet.
Whoever had the assignment of Mercury, let them give their advertisement. Then move on to the
next planet, until everyone has given their advertisement. For the further away ones use
kinesthetic to get to them—for example run to Venus, and hop on one foot to Jupiter. Once this
is done, have everyone walk back to their planet, and you stand at the sun. Tell the students to
look around and see how far away the planets really are from each other.
Go back inside.
Evaluate:
1. (5 min) Have students fill out their daily journal. The topic will be: On a separate
piece
of paper, students will write a letter to a friend describing what it is like to
live on their favorite planet (what job they have, what the scenery is like, scientific
characteristics of the planet, etc.). If they are not done, they can take the letter
home, and bring it back the next class.
Plans for Individual Differences:
This lesson incorporates many of the multi-intelligences. We use kinesthetics to move
from each planet, spatial/visual in the outdoor activities as they measure out the planets, they use
math or logical in measurements, interpersonal-- group activities, and intrapersonal-letter
writing.
Other sources may be made available for the discovery learning about each planet. This
will add an extra challenge to the students that they will have to be more choosy with their
information-- but it will require more time.
Unit Lesson Plan 2
Title: Relationship of Earth and Sun
Subject/Grade Level:
 Curriculum Area: Science – Astronomy – Solar System: The relationship between the
Earth and Sun changes our seasons and gives the world various time zones.
 4th/5th Grade Level
Rationale/Purpose:
 It is imperative that students learn this material so they understand the Earth’s tilt and
rotation (in direct relation to the sun) affect time zones and seasons. Students should
learn this information because it is basic knowledge that everyone should know
concerning the world and its various seasons (with particular attention to Michigan
seasons).
 This information is useful and relevant to their lives. It creates science literacy and gives
them a basic foundation to build upon in regards to astronomy. The purpose of using
inquiry to reach these conclusions is so students can make predictions, observations,
measurements, and experiments while recording data. This creates higher order thinking
skills which stimulates students cognitively.

MICLiMB Standards:
SCI.I.1.LE1 Generate reasonable questions about the world based on observation.
SCI.I.1.LE2 Develop solutions to problems through reasoning, observation, and
investigation.
SCI.I.1.LE6 Construct charts and graphs and prepare summaries of observations.
SCI.II.1.LE1 Develop an awareness of the need for evidence in making decisions
scientifically.
SCI.V.3.LE2 Describe seasonal changes in Michigan’s weather.
Objectives:
 TLW experiment and discover through inquiry that the Earth’s tilt and rotation affect
Michigan’s seasons and the various time zones. This objective can be assessed through
their collected data and their personal journal entries. Students will also generate more
questions based on their observations which will utilize their higher order thinking
skills.
 TLW be able to explain the following key terms: axis, tilt, rotation, ellipse, Northern
Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, and revolution and their part in creating seasons
and time zones. Five stations will be set up for students to participate in the inquiry
process. These stations will each focus on one or two of the key concepts.
 TLW understand and demonstrate the importance of evidence in making decisions
about their experiments and its results.
Content:
The Earth has an imaginary line that runs through it. This line is called an axis. It keeps
the Earth in balance and allows it to rotate around the sun. One rotation is twenty-four hours.
One revolution around the sun is 365 ¼ days. This revolution around the sun is not a perfect
circle. It is actually called an ellipse because it is slightly oval-shaped. As it is orbiting around
the sun, the Earth has a 23.5 degree tilt. This tilt means that from June to September, the
Northern Hemisphere gets the most direct sunlight, thus giving Michigan (since we are located
in the northern part) the summer season. The Southern Hemisphere experiences the winter
season. From December to March the Southern Hemisphere is getting the most direct sunlight,
thus experiencing the summer season; while the Northern Hemisphere having the winter
season. If the Earth was not tilted then we would not have our beautiful seasons here in
Michigan.
Materials:
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Several Grapefruits
Kabob sticks
Globes
Flashlights
Rulers
Paper
Pencils
Overhead
Strategies and Activities:
Engage: “Boys and girls share with me your ideas about what the weather is like in Australia
today? How about in Sweden?
How many of you have heard that “the sun rises in the east and sets in the west”? What would
you say if I told you that this wasn’t true? Take a few moments to think about it and share your
ideas with your neighbor. Then I’d like you to write down in your journals your thoughts about
the sun rising. Is it true or false and why? Also, please log your thoughts about the weather in
Australia and Sweden?”
Explore: “As you are dispersed into your groups for the experimenting, please keep in mind the
predictions we made before about the sun rising and the weather in the other countries. I’d like
you to attend each of the five stations and record your data in your journals. Please follow the
card’s directions located at each station. If you have any questions please ask me.
Station 1 has several globes and flashlights. Please hold the light away from the globe and shine
it on the globe. Please record all observations and write down any questions that you can think
of.
Station 2 has a few grapefruits and a circle cut out of some paper. Please make some
observations and record them, along with questions. Also, consider which item looks more like
the Earth and record that as well.
Station 3 has several grapefruits. Your job is to feel the grapefruit and try spinning it in the air
by using your hands. The other grapefruit – with the stick in it – is also there for you to spin.
What do you notice about the two? Are there differences and/or similarities? If so, please record
them. Don’t forget to write down any questions you have about this station.
Station 4 has several circles for you to measure. Please use the rulers and record the findings.
What do you notice? What does this have to do with the Earth or sun?
Station 5 needs a person to be “the sun” and hold the flashlight. The other person is to hold the
globe and orbit around the sun. Careful observations need to be made at four checkpoints
(Winter solstice, summer solstice, vernal equinox, and autumnal equinox). What do you notice
about the light hitting the Earth? Explain.”
During this time, the teacher will go around the room and ask probing, thought-provoking
questions. For example, “Which do you think represents the Earth, the circle or grapefruit? [The
circle] Why do you say that? [because it is round] What is the shape of the grapefruit? [a
sphere] Why do you think there is a stick pushed through the grapefruit? [I don’t know] What
do you think it could represent? [the axis?]
**It is important to note that the teacher does not answer any of these questions. They are only
asked to promote higher level thinking and substantive conversation.**
Explain: After each group has had a chance to visit each station, the class will come back
together for a discussion. The teacher gives each group the floor to share a few of their
observations, questions, and new predictions. The teacher does not give any indication of right
or wrong answers. He or she simply clarifies their answers and encourages them to give
definitions in their own words. Then the teacher picks out terms that groups may have given.
The teacher needs to check for understanding of the particular terms – making sure that each
student understands those terms and can explain them to another person.
Elaborate: Next the teacher gives the students more time to explore and test their new
predictions or see if observations have changed. The teacher will then give each station a
firsthand look with volunteer students doing the experiment in front of the class. The teacher
will address each key term at this time.
Station 1 the teacher will show the light hitting only ½ of the globe. The teacher will ask, “If we
live here in Michigan, and we are receiving sunlight, then what time do you think it is in Sweden
right now?” The students will make some predictions and the teacher will get on-line through a
live web-cam to view Sweden’s time and weather conditions. The students will discuss their
initial thoughts and be allowed to ask questions and seek understanding.
The teacher will do this for each station concentrating on the axis, tilt, rotation, ellipse, the two
hemispheres, and its affects on weather and time zones.
Evaluate: The students will be evaluated by their journal entries. They must demonstrate the
process of inquiry by making predictions, observing, experimenting, measuring,
asking/answering questions, and listing results using key terms/concepts. The students will also
be evaluated on spelling/grammar and organizations of their journal. If they would like bonus
points – they can decorate or customize the cover of their journal.
Plans for Individual Differences:
Grouping will be carefully constructed so struggling learners will have an opportunity to learn in
the best possible environment. They will be paired with students that are on-task and able to
offer help in peer-to-peer fashion.
This type of lesson meets a variety of intelligences:
Spatial – seeing Earth as a sphere and watching the light shine on one-half of the globe
Logical-mathematical – measuring the circles and comparing them to see that the Earth’s
rotation is really an ellipse
Bodily-kinesthetic – allows students to move about the room and pretend to be the sun and Earth
in order to perform the experiment
Linguistic – students are using written and oral language throughout lesson
Interpersonal – students are working together in order to complete the inquiry process
Unit Lesson Plan 3
Where Does it Go?
Subject:
Astronomy – Phases of the Moon
Grade Level:
4 or 5
Interdisciplinary Connections:
Language Arts and Art
**Other idea, not included in this lesson – could also tie in
to math with fractions (what fraction is each phase of the
moon and adding/subtracting moon phase fractions)
Rationale/Purpose:
 It is important for students to have a good understanding of the world around
them and what makes up the solar system. The moon is something students see
everyday, and yet they may not understand what they are seeing or why the moon
always appears to be different, or sometimes not even there at all. By learning
about the phases of the moon, students will no longer question where the moon
goes when they cannot see it and will learn important concepts about the earth and
the moon.
 Michigan Curriculum Framework Benchmarks:
o SCI.I.1.E.1 – Generate reasonable questions about the world based on
observation.
o SCI.I.1.E.2 – Develop solutions to problems through reasoning,
observation, and investigation.
o SCI.I.1.E.5 – Develop strategies and skills for information gathering and
problem solving.
o SCI.I.1.E.6 – Construct charts and graphs and prepare summaries of
observations.
o SCI.V.4.E.1 – Compare and contrast characteristics of the sun, moon, and
earth.
Objectives:
The learner will …
 Demonstrate through hands-on activity the different phases of the moon
 Chart the different phases of the moon and create artistic drawings of each
 Write one sentence for each moon phase drawing, describing its position in
relation to the earth and the sun
 Write one paragraph about why the moon appears different every night
Content:
If you look carefully every day and/or night, you will see that the appearance of the moon
changes every day throughout the course of one month. Some days it is large and round, some
days it is just a small curve, and some days you cannot see it at all. The moon has no light of its
own, so its brightness and how much you can see of it depend on light from the sun. As the
moon rotates around the earth, the size of the illuminated part of the moon changes, depending
on where the moon, earth, and sun are in space. One side of the moon is always bright because
the sun shines on it. Our view of the moon (from earth), however, depends on where the sun and
moon are in relation to each other. If the moon is between the earth and the sun, we see a dark
surface (or nothing at all). If the moon is on the far side of the earth from the sun, it appears to
be fully lit by the sun. If the earth is exactly between the sun and the moon, there is a lunar
eclipse (but we’ll learn about that in a different lesson). Depending on how much of the sun’s
light reaches the moon, different amounts of the moon are visible in the sky – at night or, if there
is enough bright light from the sun, in they day time! There are eight phases the moon will go
through: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous,
third/last quarter, and waning crescent. Each of these phases occurs throughout the month in a
continuous cycle.
New concepts to be learned (see attached concept map):
Phase
New moon
Waxing crescent
First quarter
Waxing gibbous
Full moon
Waning gibbous
Third/Last quarter
Waning crescent
Materials:
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Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
Two pieces of black construction paper for each student
White crayons and/or chalk
Flashlights or lamps (one per group of three)
Darkened room
Medium-size Styrofoam balls (one per group of three)
Large Styrofoam balls (one per group of three)
Strategies and Activities:
Engage:
Read the book Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, to the class. Make the reading
an enjoyable experience and take time with it. This book has excellent
illustrations and wonderful descriptive words. Students should really get
into the story. The teacher can even have the students close their eyes and
listen and imagine as the book is read. Students should imagine that they
can feel/see/smell/taste/hear everything happening in the book. Once the
book is finished, engage students in a discussion about it. Note that the
“owl moon” is when the moon is full. Ask the students why they think
this is the best time to go owling. This should lead to a discussion about it
being a full moon so it is really bright even though it is night time. Guide
students into wondering about whether or not the moon produces its own
light, like the sun does, and why the moon isn’t always fully lit up or why
it is possible to see the moon during the day. Write students’ comments
on the board or on an overhead.
Explore:
Hand out the Many Faces of our Moon worksheet (attached). Divide
students into groups of three. Allow students to choose who is going to be
the sun, who will be the moon, and who will be the earth in each group.
The student who is the earth should sit in the middle and hold a large
Styrofoam ball on a stick up in the air. The student who is the sun should
stand about four feet to one side of the earth and hold a flashlight. The
student who is the moon will hold a smaller Styrofoam ball on a stick.
The moon will be the only person moving. The teacher should turn the
lights off in the classroom and darken the windows to provide a “nightlike” atmosphere. The moon will travel in a circle around the earth while
the sun shines on it. The moon should remember to keep the same side of
it facing earth at all times. As the moon orbits, students should notice that
the amount of light on the moon changes in relation to where the moon is
at in its orbit around the sun. Students should draw pencil sketches of
eight different amounts of light shown on the moon (eight different places
the moon-student will pause in its rotation around the earth). The teacher
may have to demonstrate if students are confused.
Explain:
Once students have completed their drawings, their group will place their
drawings on the board with a magnet or tape so that all the drawings can
be compared. Students will discuss the differences they see in all of their
drawings. The teacher will point out how the amount of light is bigger or
smaller, depending on where the moon is at in relation to the earth and the
sun. The teacher may put up an unlabeled diagram to demonstrate; the
following picture may be helpful.
Comparing this diagram to the students’ pictures drawn on the board, the
teacher should ask students if they can figure out a name for each of the
eight pictures. Explain to the students that each different picture of the
moon is called a phase. Note that an easy way to remember this is by
thinking of the word “face” – our moon has many different faces, which
are scientifically called phases. There are eight different phases that
scientists have named: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing
gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third/last quarter, waning crescent.
These will be written on the board.
Elaborate:
The teacher will give each student two pieces of black construction paper
and white crayons and/or white chalk. Students should divide each paper
into four sections, one for each phase of the moon. Using the crayons or
chalk, students should draw in a picture of each moon phase and label it,
making sure to label where the sun would be in relation to their moon.
Underneath each phase, the student should write one sentence describing
the position of the moon in relation to the sun and earth. The student may
draw a diagram to supplement.
An optional extension can be for each child to observe the moon at night
every day for the following month and draw/describe what it looks.
Evaluate:
Each student will write one paragraph explaining why the moon looks
different every night. The teacher will grade these based on the
information the student includes about the moon (moon does not create its
own light; the moon’s light comes from the sun; the moon orbits around
the earth and is in different places in relation to the sun all the time so that
only some of the moon is lit up; only one side of the moon faces earth at
all times; etc.) The teacher will also determine students’ knowledge of
each moon phase by looking at the students’ drawings with sentences.
Plans for Individual Differences:
 Students with learning/developmental disabilities will be able to work with another
student in the class to help them
 Students of all different learning styles will be reached through this activity because it
includes hands-on activities (bodily-kinesthetic learners and visual-spatial learners),
drawing (artistic learners), a written aspect (linguistic learners), and teamwork
(interpersonal learners).
The Many Faces of Our Moon
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Unit Lesson Plan 4
Science Lesson Plan
Curriculum Area: Astronomy-Sun/Eclipses
Grade: 4th /5th
Rational/Purpose:
 Students should learn this material so that they become more aware of their environment,
and to appreciate the sun.
 The value to the student is that he or she will be able to identify some characteristics of
the sun.
 Michigan Curriculum Framework Science:
SCI.I.1.LE1 Generate reasonable questions about the world based on observation.
SCI.II.1.LE4 Develop an awareness of and sensitivity to the natural world.
SCI.V.4. All students will compare and contrast our planet and solar system, and describe
how objects in the solar system move.
Objectives:
 Students will be able to explain the word solar eclipse.
 Students will be able to name certain eclipses, such as the total solar eclipse, the
annual and lunar eclipse.
 Students will be able to produce their own “solar eclipse”.
Content:
Background Knowledge:
As the teacher, I should know about the sun in general, such as what the sun consists of,
the mass of the sun, the color, the history of observations of the sun, the gravitation of the
sun. I should also know how the sun affects the earth, how it affects life and light and how
solar eclipses work. I should know about the safety rules when it comes to watching eclipses,
where one of the rules is to never look at the sun directly! I should know about the different
myths that were associated with eclipses in earlier times.
Concepts:
As a review, students will learn that the sun is a star with a huge gravitational pull on our
solar system, such as the planets, moons, and comets. Students will learn that the sun is our
closest star. The sun is a very hot gas ball estimated to be 27,000,000 F, with a diameter of
870,000 miles.
Students will learn that a Solar Eclipse occurs when the moon is in its new phase and it
moves between the Sun and the Earth, which blocks the light of the sun from a small part of
the earth. The earth “darkens” in that small part.
Materials:
Overhead projector
Video clip
Students’ journals, colors and pens
Oranges
Balls of Clay (about 1/3 size of the orange)
Ruler
Flashlights
Strategies and Activities:
Engage: I will start my lesson with showing pictures on the overhead projector. I will show
pictures of solar eclipses with different phases of the solar eclipse. I will ask questions, such as
whether the students have ever heard of a solar eclipse, and what they have heard about an
eclipse. I will also ask students how they think a solar eclipse works, and what they think
happens when there is a solar eclipse.
Explore: I will split students into groups of three or four. I will give each group a piece of paper
with a paragraph to read. Each group has a different paragraph. Each paragraph talks about a
culture in earlier times, and what that particular culture use to think about solar eclipses and also
what that culture thought a solar eclipse was. Students will have time to talk about what they
read in the text within their group.
Explain: I will ask each group to talk about what they have read and share briefly with the class.
I will ask students why they think that each culture had a different understanding of solar
eclipses and different beliefs and meanings about it.
I will show a short video clip that explains how a solar eclipse works. If it is necessary I
will stop the tape at important moments and explain in my own words what just was explained in
the video clip. After the video clip is done, I will ask students what they now think about solar
eclipses. I will use a model and show students the relationship between sun, moon and earth. I
will show pictures of the different phases of the eclipse, such as “total solar eclipse”, “annual
eclipse” and “lunar eclipse”.
Elaborate: For this part of the lesson students will make their own solar eclipse. Each group will
get an orange and a round piece of clay and a flashlight. I will darken the classroom a little bit.
Students should line the orange and the clay in one line on a table about eight inches apart. Then
students will stand about two feet away from the table. Students will hold the flashlight at the
same level as the clay and orange and then shine the light from behind the clay ball. Students
will see the shadow on the orange. Students will have been informed that the flashlight
represents the sun, the orange represents the earth, and the piece of clay represents the moon. I
will write the word “umbra” and “penumbra” on the board. I will tell students that the word
“umbra” is the middle part of the shadow on the orange, and “penumbra” is the outer rim of the
shadow.
Evaluation: I will ask students what they have learned today. I will ask students to explain the
word solar eclipse to me and the two words they have just heard, “umbra” and “penumbra”. I
will ask students to name the different eclipses.
As assignment, students will write in their journals. They will write about the solar
eclipse and what happens in the process. Students will draw the different eclipse phases in their
journals and name them. Students can be creative about how they want to put their newly learned
information into their journals.
Plans for Individual Differences:
For visual learners, I show pictures on the overhead, and I present a little video clip. For
tactile learners, students are doing group work and creating their own solar eclipse. For linguistic
learners, students listen to students discussions and I as the teacher explain the solar eclipse, and
students read in their group about the different cultures. For intrapersonal learners, students have
a group discussion and a class discussion. For interpersonal (reflective) learners, I give the
assignment to work with their journals and write and draw about what students have learned in
class today.
Unit Lesson Plan 5
Subject/Grade Level:
Curriculum Area: Astronomy-Constellations
Grade: 4th and 5th
Rationale/Purpose:
 Students should learn this material so that they become more aware of their environment,
and to appreciate the beauty of the night sky.
 The value to the student is that he or she will be able to recognize some constellations in
the sky and will be more familiar with the stars.
 Michigan Curriculum Framework Science:
SCI.I.1.LE1 Generate reasonable questions about the world based on observation.
SCI.II.1.LE4 Develop an awareness of and sensitivity to the natural world.
SCI.V.4 All students will compare and contrast our planet and solar system, and describe
how objects in the solar system move.
Objectives:
I have incorporated social studies in the stage of explaining, where I talk about the myths of
some of the constellations that were invented earlier on in history. I have also incorporated some
art work, where students draw a constellation, and where students create their own star map.
 The student will be able to define the term “constellation”.
 The student will be able to identify some of the most known/famous constellations.
 The student will be able to produce a star map.
Content:
Background Knowledge:
As the teacher, I should know about the stars in general, such as what do stars consist of,
how many constellations there are in the sky (88 recognizable), and at what seasons do different
constellations appear in the night sky. As the teacher, I should also know a little bit of history of
the “making” of constellations, about how the stars where ‘brought fourth’.
Concepts:
Students will learn a brief history of how constellations come to be. Students will hear
about the star observations of the Egyptians in the time of the Pharaohs and the Greeks, and how
the Greeks named the stars and connected the stars with their fantasy to come up with
constellations. The Greeks noticed groups of stars and connected them with imaginary lines.
These groups are known as the constellations.
Students will hear of different myths that the people in earlier times came up with.
Students will learn that the stars that make up a constellation are not really next to each
other. The stars only appear to be that way, because we see it from our point of view living on
this planet earth.
Students will learn about different constellations.
Students will learn that at different seasons we can see different constellations, because
the earth rotates around the sun, and therefore the positions of the stars seem to be somewhere
else during each season.
Materials:
Board and marker
Overhead projector and foil
Pencil, color marker, and paper for each student
Dark blue or black construction paper
Star stickers (if available glowing stickers)
Scissors
Strategies and Activities:
Engage: To start my lesson and to build curiosity I will use the overhead projector to show a
picture of the night sky. I will ask students if they know what it is that they see on the overhead. I
will ask students whether they know how many stars there are in the sky. I will write the word
“Constellation” on the board and ask students whether they know what that means. I will also
ask students whether they know any constellations, or if they have ever seen one in the sky.
Explore: Students will be given a piece of paper with many dots on them. The dots represent the
stars in the sky. On the piece of paper will also be the name of a constellation, and I will ask
students to create an image of what they think the constellation should look like, just like ancient
astronomers. (I will give some students the constellation of the Big Dipper, others the
constellation of Pegasus, and other the constellation of Aquila.) Here, I integrate some art skills
into science.
Explain: I will ask students to share the ideas that they had and to show their pictures to their
class mates. There will be many different versions of one constellation. I will ask students as to
why they think there are many different ideas of one image.
I will use the overhead projector and show pictures of the star map and I will tell students
about the “making” of constellations. I will tell students about the myths of certain constellations
and who invented them. I will inform students that the stars in a constellation are not next to each
other, but only appear to be that way from our point of view. I will also mention that earlier
Greeks used imaginary lines to create a picture in the night sky. This is so I can integrate a little
bit of social studies into science.
I will also mention that at different seasons, we see different images in the sky because the earth
rotates and the stars do not; that is why we always have the same constellations for each season.
Elaborate: For this part of the lesson, I will present the star map again on the overhead projector.
Students will create their own star map modeled after the real sky map, and I will then give
students the assignment to find the constellations with their sky map at night. To do the star map,
students will each get a piece of paper and with dots (=stars) on, and students will connect
certain groups of stars and write the name of some of the constellation on the paper. Students can
also use stickers to glue onto the dots which represent stars. Students should use different colors
for different constellations, so that they will be able to recognize each constellation faster.
Evaluate: To evaluate what students have learned in class today, I will ask students what they
have learned today. I will ask students to explain the word “Constellation” to me.
I will also ask students to identify or point out one constellation that we talked about in class, and
I will also ask students if they remember a little bit of the myth of that particular constellation. I
will also look at the sky map that students created, and I will also look at the constellations that
students created on their star map.
Plans for Individual Differences:
The lesson includes materials for visual learners (overhead projector, star maps). For
tactile learners, students are given the opportunity to create themselves a constellation, which is a
hands-on approach. For linguistic learners, I as the teacher explain the night sky, and I also talk
about the myths of the constellations. For interpersonal learners I have included class discussion
in the explaining step where students share their ideas with the class. For reflective learners,
there is the assignment at the end of the lesson, where students are supposed to take their sky
map with them and find a constellation at night.
(For a later on lesson, in the elaborate stage, I will have students come up with their own
constellation and create their own myth to their constellation.)
Unit Lesson Plan 6
Title: Comets
Subject/Grade Level:
 Curriculum Area: Science – Astronomy – Solar System: Comets!
 4th/5th Grade Level
Rationale/Purpose:
 Students may have misconceptions about comets and their part within the solar system.
They may also believe that comets and asteroids are similar. It is important to enhance
their science literacy through active exploration of comets and their role within our
universe.
 The value of learning about comets is twofold: they will expand their scientific
knowledge and gain an appreciation for our intricate and fascinating universe.

MICLiMB Standards:
SCI.I.1.LE4 Use simple measurement devices to make measurements in scientific
investigations.
SCI.I.1.LE5 Develop strategies and skills for information gathering and problem solving.
SCI.II.1.LE1 Develop an awareness of the need for evidence in making decisions
scientifically.
SCI.II.1.LE3 Describe ways in which technology is used in everyday life.
Objectives:
TLW use various resources and technology to learn about comets and asteroids. This
will demonstrate to the importance of technology and how it is used in everyday life. It will
also demonstrate to the students the need of evidence in making decisions in regards to comets
and asteroids.
TLW use measurements to create a comet and omit one ingredient in creation of another
comet and compare the two. TLW discover through this experiment that simple measurements
are important to consider in scientific discovery.
TLW be able to explain through a concept map or drawing and journal entries the key
terms: comet, coma, dust tail, gas ion tail, nucleus, and asteroid. The students will
understand and summarize a fact or myth about comets, the path of a comet, and its unique
relationship to the sun.
Content:
Comets and asteroids are different, but they are both part of the solar system – contrary
to some misconceptions. Asteroids are a small object composed of mostly rocky and metallic
material. Many asteroids orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Their size can range from ten
meters in diameter to less than 1,000 kilometers. Comets are also a small solar system object
composed of ice, dust, and gas (carbon – and silicon – based compounds). Comets have a
nucleus and a cloud that forms around the nucleus is called a coma. The coma is created by a
solar wind striking the surface of the nucleus, causing a mixture of gas and dust to form the
cloud. A comet can have a dust tail or a gas ion tail. The dust tail forms when the solar wind
separates dust from the coma, pushing it outward away from the Sun in a slightly curved path.
The gas ion tail forms when the solar wind separates gases from the coma, pushing them
outward away from the Sun in a straight path. The comet may have a coma and one, two, or
three tails when near the Sun, and no coma or tail when far away from the Sun.
Materials: (This is per one comet.)
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2 cups of water (about 2 cups for a smallish nucleus)
2 cups of dry ice (frozen CO2)
2 tablespoons of soil or sand
a dash of ammonia (use the crystals from a bottle of smelling salts or alternatively
cleaning fluid)
a dose of 'organic material' – dark soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce are ideal
You’ll also need the following equipment:
An ice chest (or at least a polystyrene container to insulate the dry ice until it’s used – they can
be obtained from a greengrocer)
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a mixing bowl or washing-up bowl
a rubble sack or thick garden waste sack
work gloves (the thicker the better – use the sort that are coated in plastic)
a rubber / wooden mallet or hammer
a large wooden spoon or spatula
a few floor cloths
a set of kitchen scales
safety glasses
Papers, pencils, computers/Internet, library resources, a granite rock (asteroid), markers, glue,
glitter, construction paper, and scissors
Strategies and Activities:
Engage: “Boys and girls can you share with me your ideas about comets and asteroids? What
do you know? Well today we are going to build two comets. One will have all of the
ingredients and the other will be altered. This is a group project and I expect everyone to work
together and participate in the experiment.”
The teacher will encourage a class discussion on comets and asteroids. The teacher should ask
probing questions that will foster higher order thinking.
Explore: The students will be broken up into groups of three. They will write some questions
they would like answered about comets in their journals. Next, they will be instructed to
research comets and asteroids using the Internet or the library’s resources. Websites for comet
exploration will be given (http://amazing-space.stsci.edu). The students will record their
findings in a journal and make note if any of their questions were answered.
Next the students will be given materials for making a comet. They must measure their
ingredients and record their measurements in the journal. The first comet they make will use all
of the ingredients. The second comet must have the recipe “tweaked” so that a comet will not
form. The students must work together to decide how they will tweak the second comet. Will
they omit an ingredient or will they change the measurements? Students must record their
measurements and observations for the second comet as well.
During this time, the teacher must be encouraging students to think deeply about the project.
“Describe your comet. Does it resemble the comet you found in your research? Why or why
not? How did you change your recipe? What are you finding? What does this tell you?
[measurements and ingredients are important in composition of comets]”
Next students will compare the granite rock to their comet and record observations. Students
should be working together and making guesses, observations, and recordings.
Explain: The class will come together as a whole group and share their observations. When key
terms are used, the teacher will reinforce that terminology without giving formal explanations.
The students should display knowledge of the comet’s makeup and the differences between a
comet and asteroid.
Next the teacher will have the students find another group that altered their comet in a different
way from the first group.
Elaborate: The students will find another group and compare and contrast the differences
between the comets that were altered. The will create deep conversation and higher order
thinking as students compare the differences between the two comets.
Next, the class will come together and the teacher will facilitate another discussion using the key
terms with their formal definition. The teacher will check for understanding during this time and
encourage them to discuss the differences between the altered comets. The discussion should
reinforce the importance of measurements.
Finally, the students will have time to research comets again using books/Internet to find a myth
or legend about comets. They should also find that comets are given names. The groups must
decide on a name for their comet and include that on the top of their journal and concept map /
drawing.
Evaluate: The students will create individual concept maps or drawings that include the key
terms: comet, asteroid, coma, dust tail, gas ion tail, and nucleus. Students will have the freedom
to choose which type of assessment will be used. Materials will be given for those who would
like to create a picture of the comet and asteroid, including the key terms listed above. This
display should explain the path of a comet and its relationship to the Sun. They will also be
instructed to list one fact and one myth (or legend) about a comet as well as their comet’s name.
Plans for Individual Differences:
Special consideration needs to be given for students that are ESL and LD. These students will be
put in groups with a student that is a higher achiever.
This type of lesson meets a variety of intelligences:
Spatial – seeing comets and asteroids on-line and in pictures
Logical-mathematical – measuring the ingredients of a comet
Bodily-kinesthetic – allows students to move about the room to conduct their research and feel
the comet/asteroid
Linguistic – students are using written and oral language throughout lesson
Interpersonal – students are working together in order to complete the inquiry process
Unit Lesson Plan 7
Incoming!
Subject:
Astronomy – Impact Craters on the Moon
Grade Level:
4 or 5
Rationale/Purpose:
 Students will learn more about the surface of the moon so that they increase their
knowledge of objects in the solar system and remove any preconceived notions of
what the moon’s surface is like. It is important for students to understand the
objects in our solar system and to know why the moon looks the way it does.
 Michigan Curriculum Framework Benchmarks:
o SCI.I.1.E.1 – Generate reasonable questions about the world based on
observation.
o SCI.I.1.E.2 – Develop solutions to problems through reasoning,
observation, and investigation.
o SCI.I.1.E.4 – Use simple measurement devices to make measurements in
scientific investigations.
o SCI.I.1.E.5 – Develop strategies and skills for information gathering and
problem solving.
o SCI.I.1.E.6 – Construct charts and graphs and prepare summaries of
observations.
o SCI.V.4.E.1 – Compare and contrast characteristics of the sun, moon, and
earth.
Objectives:
The learner will …
 Demonstrate through hands-on activity the way that impact craters were created
on the surface of the moon.
 Record and chart the effects of large and small objects’ impact on the moon.
 Write a paragraph describing why the moon’s surface has “holes” in it and how
those holes were formed.
Content:
The surface of the moon appears to have “holes” in it. These holes are actually known as
impact craters. Impact craters are created from the remains of collisions of asteroids, comets, or
meteorites with the moon. The objects are different sizes and hit the moon at different speeds.
The surface of the moon has millions of impact craters all over it. There is not atmosphere on
the moon to protect it from incoming debris, whereas Earth has an atmosphere which burns up
any object that comes flying toward it before it can reach earth’s surface. There is also no
erosion on the moon because there is no wind or water, so impact craters can stay there for long
periods of time with nothing changing them, unless another impact changes it. The size, mass,
speed, and angle at which the moon is impacted determines the size of the crater. Small, slow
objects create small, simple craters. Large, fast objects create large, complex craters. Most of
the craters on the moon are circular.
New concepts to be learned (see attached concept map):
Impact crater
Comet
Impactor
Asteroid
Meteoroid/Meteorite
Materials:
 Pictures of the surface of the moon
 Flour or corn starch
 A long, flat tub or cake pan for every
3 students
 Marbles
 Golf balls
 Ping pong balls
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Popsicle sticks
Calculators
Plastic cups
Yard sticks (or meter stick)
Ruler
Balance
Strategies and Activities:
Engage:
Show pictures of the surface of the moon to students on the computer
screen. Ask students if they know what the pictures are of. They should
come to the conclusion that it is the moon. Have students describe what
they see in the picture and ask them how they think the moon’s surface
came to look as it does. As students begin to describe ways the “holes”
could have formed on the moon, list them on the board. Ask students why
they think some of the holes are bigger and some are smaller. Also list
these explanations on the board. Be sure to have students record their
predictions. Next, show students a picture of a footstep on the moon. Ask
them if they think that the footstep is still on the moon today exactly the
way it looks in the picture. Have them record this prediction as well.
Explore:
Divide the class into groups of three and explain to them that they will
each take turns being the recorder, the measurer, and the supplies person.
Provide students with a tub of flour (or corn starch), one large marble, one
small marble, one golf ball, and one BB, which will all be in a cup.
Students should also have access to a scale/balance, a meter stick, and a
ruler. Students should use the balance to find the mass of each of their
objects and record it in their chart (see attached Student Data Chart, in
which students fill in depth and height of crater for each trial). Students
will then drop each object from a height of 30 cm, 60 cm, and 90 cm, and
measure the diameter and depth of the hole it creates in the flour/corn
starch. One student should drop, one should measure, and the other
should record. After each drop, it is important to flatten out the surface of
the flour/corn starch before dropping the next one to allow for easier
measurements. This can be done by shaking the tub so that the flour shifts
around until it is flat. Students should drop from each height three times
for each object.
Explain:
Once students have recorded the sizes of the holes for each object
dropped, they should average the diameters and depths for each of the
three trials. A chart will be on the board or the overhead for them to fill in
the sizes of their holes so they can compare with the rest of the class. A
class average of hole diameter and depth will be calculated for each object
dropped. Ask students about what they found and if there were any
patterns. Ask them why there are different size holes created and how this
might relate to the moon. After students come up with ideas, the teacher
will begin to explain that each of the objects they dropped onto their
“surface of the moon” was an object in space – either a meteoroid,
asteroid, or comet. These objects are large pieces of icy rock that float
around in space and occasionally collide with each other, sending bits and
pieces flying through space, and these pieces often crash into the moon.
Students should have pointed out that the bigger the object is, the larger
the hole it creates on the moon. These holes are known as craters – or
sometimes called impact craters, because they make an impact on the
moon. The objects (meteoroids, asteroids, and comets) that hit the moon
are called impactors. The teacher should ask students to think about what
they know about the earth and why there are no (or not many) craters on
the earth (students will have already learned about the earth’s atmosphere
before this lesson would be given). Students should apply their
knowledge about earth’s atmosphere, which burns up any objects that
come into it, to figure out why objects can hit the moon. Using their
knowledge about earth, students should now be able to understand that the
reason why the craters on the moon are formed is because the moon has no
atmosphere to protect it, as earth does. There is nothing to keep objects
away from hitting the moon. The teacher should also encourage students
to consider why the craters on the moon do not change. As they offer
suggestions, students will realize that there are no weather changes on the
moon as there are on earth, and so there is no erosion on the surface of the
moon from wind or water. These are key differences between the earth
and the moon that students should be able to easily recognize. Because of
the lack of erosion, the craters never change shape, unless they are hit by
another impactor. This can be tied back to the footstep picture and
students will be able to answer whether or not that step would still be on
the moon today.
Elaborate:
With this understanding of what creates the holes on the moon and makes
them different sizes, show students another picture of the moon and have
them think of other reasons why the craters might be different shapes and
sizes. Write student suggestions on the board and then allow them to
investigate in their groups. Students should have come up with the idea
that angle might affect crater shape and size. Allow students to further the
experiment by determining if the angle at which an impactor hits the moon
makes a difference. This will also be recorded on a student data chart that
measures angle rather than height. Students can determine if the angle
makes a difference by choosing one object and dropping it at an angle to
the surface of the moon and recording their observations. Students can
take averages for each trial and come up with a conclusion about the angle
of impactors hitting the moon and share it with the class in a class
discussion.
Another option would be to have the students graph their crater depth and
diameter for each object to show the differences and then extrapolate the
graph for a greater height (more speed) or for objects that have a greater
mass.
Evaluate:
Each student will turn in a lab report that includes the following:
o Initial predictions from the beginning of class about how the craters on
the moon were formed, why some craters are bigger or smaller, and
why the craters never change
o Their data charts with all their information about impactor mass and
diameter and depth of craters
o A written conclusion of whether their predictions were
correct/incorrect and why (a scientific explanation that includes correct
terms for the “holes” and objects that hit the surface and how the
size/speed/angle of these affected the size of the holes)
Plans for Individual Differences:
 Students with learning/developmental disabilities will be able to work with another
student in the class to help them
 Students of all different learning styles will be reached through this activity because it
includes hands-on activities (bodily-kinesthetic learners and visual-spatial learners),
charting and measuring (mathematical and logical learners), a written report (linguistic
learners), and teamwork (interpersonal learners).
OBJECT:
__________________________
MASS:
___________ grams
Student Data Chart
Trial 1
Drop
Height =
30 cm
Trial 2
Trial 3
Total
Average
Crater
Diameter
Crater
Depth
Drop
Height =
60 cm
Crater
Diameter
Crater
Depth
Drop
Height =
90 cm
Crater
Diameter
Crater
Depth
OBSERVATIONS:
Drop Height 30 cm –
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
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Drop Height 60 cm –
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
Drop Height 90 cm –
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
Student Information Page
Predictions:
1. How do you think the craters on the moon were formed?
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
2. Why do you think some craters on the moon are bigger or smaller than others?
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
3. Do you think the footprint on the moon is still there today? Why?
_____________________________________________________________
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_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
Experiment:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
You have three objects to use as impactors: a ping pong ball, a golf ball, and a marble.
Record the name of each object and its mass on a separate data chart.
Make sure your moon surface is flattened evenly by shaking the pan gently to settle the flour.
Practice dropping a couple times before beginning the experiment.
Smooth out your moon surface and choose which impactor to start with.
Drop the first impactor from 30 cm. Remove the impactor carefully and measure the
diameter (width of the circle from one side to the other across the middle) of the crater
formed and its depth (you can use the popsicle sticks to help measure how deep it is). Be
sure to write down your answer in centimeters (cm) on the chart. Repeat this two more
times, but not in the exact same spot on the surface.
7. Flatten out your moon surface again by gently shaking the tub until it’s smooth.
8. Add together the diameters for all three trials and record the total. Divide the total by 3 to
get the average. Do the same for the depths. You can use the calculator to help.
9. Repeat steps 6 through 8 for the other two impactors.
*** BE CAREFUL TO KEEP ALL THE FLOUR IN THE PAN AND THE
OBJECTS IN THE CUP WHILE THEY ARE NOT BEING USED ***
Conclusions:
1. How are craters on the moon formed?
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
2. Based on your experiment, what affects how the crater looks and what its size
is?
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
3. Write a rule that determines the size of a crater. (We will do this as a class.)
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
4. The highest height you dropped an impactor from was 90 cm. If the impactor
were dropped from a height of 500 cm, would the impact crater be larger or
smaller? Why?
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
5. Why do craters on the moon not change in appearance?
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________
Unit Lesson Plan 8
Why Do Scientists Study the Solar System?
Ideas from www.lessonplanspage.com
Subject: Science
Grade Level: 4th/5th
Rationale:
Students are always asking the question “Why?” This lesson helps to answers their
questions in a discovery lesson on why scientists study space, and how does technology help the
process. We are a very technologically equipped nation/world, and technology aids our life—
even in the outer layer of space.
Purpose:
To educate the students of the technological gains and how they affect the space
studies.
Benchmarks:
SCI.I.1.el.2: Develop solutions to problems through reasoning, observation, and
investigation.
SCI.I.1.el.6: Construct charts and graphs and prepare summaries of observations.
SCI.V.4.el: All students will compare and contrast our planet and Sun to other
planets and star systems; describe and explain how objects in the solar system
move; explain scientific theories as to the origin of the solar system; and explain
how we learn about the universe. (Solar System, Galaxy, and Universe)
Concepts:
technology, astronauts, world, space, improvement
* See Concept Map
Objectives:
* TLW list at least three technological (electronic, communication, or digital)
improvements that have resulted from the exploration of space.
* TLW list at least two developments in building materials derived specifically
from the exploration of space.
* TLW be able to fully explain how jet fuel has improved because of space
exploration, and at least one reason why this is important to air travel.
* TLW identify at least three practical improvements that have resulted from
space exploration that have also improved their own lives personally.
* TLW defend the argument that the development of computers as a result of the
efforts of the U.S. Space Program has alone justified the expense and danger of
space exploration.

TLW judge whether or not humans' seemingly inherent "need to
know" is appropriate justification for the U.S. Space Program.
* TLW judge whether or not the possibility for future discovery in the U.S. Space
Program warrants the cost and danger of future space exploration.
Materials:
* One large, yellow box with large question mark written on the front
* A Tupperware container of dried fruit
* A computer with the picture of an airplane on the screen (saved as wallpaper
(background), cardboard facsimile if necessary)
* A television tuned to CNN (cardboard facsimile if necessary)
Strategies and Activities
Engage:
Before the students arrive, set the box at the front of the room in a prominent
position. As the students enter the class, walk over to the box and peak in a couple times, looking
curious and surprised each time. If students ask you what is in the box, politely inform them that
it is none of their business. When all the students have been seated, move to the front of the room
beside the box and begin speaking. While speaking, continue to make causal glances at the box,
as if worried that it might disappear.
“ Today we will be discussing why space exploration is important to us as human beings.
I know that sitting here in this classroom, it might be difficult to understand how or why
something like the Hubble Space Telescope is important to you, but it is, I assure you. As we
have learned in previous classes, the exploration of space began hundreds of years ago with
Greek and Roman astronomers like Galileo. Who can remind the class what Galileo was famous
for? Good. Well, since the days of Galileo, astronomers and astronauts have been making our
lives better and better without many of us even realizing it. So today, we will be discussing some
of the things that space exploration has done to benefit human kind. “
Explore:
Place the Tupperware bowl, the television, and the computer in a position where
the entire class can see them. Ask each student to take out a blank piece of paper and list the
three items, leaving space in between each item.
“ I've assembled three items for your observation today. The first is a Tupperware
container filled with dried fruit, the second is a television, and the third is a computer. Each of
these items have been improved in some way as a direct result of the U.S. Space Program. And
some have been improved in more ways than one. It is your job to guess what improvements
might have resulted from the study and exploration of space. Take about five minutes to examine
each item carefully. Use your imagination. This exercise will not be graded, so don't be afraid to
make wild guesses. None of you will guess all the improvements, so have fun with this and don't
worry too much about your answers. All I ask is that you use your brains for the next fifteen
minutes and be creative. Write your guesses on the sheet of paper I asked you to take out. You
may begin. “
During the next five minutes, allow the students to work individually without
interruption. During this time, you should attempt to attract more attention towards your yellow
box. Peak inside a couple more times, keep an obvious eye on it, and so on. If a student asks
what is inside, again politely tell the student that it is none of his or her business. After fifteen
minutes have passed, ask the students to put down their pens and pencils.
Explain:
“Okay, now it's time to see what you came up with. We're going to discuss each
item one by one, in the order I have given. Please feel free to share your guesses with the rest of
the class. Who knows, you might just be right! Let's begin with the Tupperware bowl full of dried
fruit. Who wants to give me one of their guesses? “
Direct a question and answer session until each student has had the opportunity to
present one of their ideas, or until all the improvements have been discovered. If a guess seems
strange or unexplainable, ask the student why he or she made such a guess. Probe into their
thinking, and try to peak their curiosity. Once every student has had a chance to guess, reveal the
answers (if not already discovered by the students). Start by only naming the actual
improvement, for example hardened plastic, dehydrated food, or satellites. Then ask how each
improvement might have aided in space exploration, and how the improvement has also made
their own lives better. Follow the same procedure for the other two items
Answers:
The Tupperware is made from a hardened plastic that was invented for use
on the Apollo missions to the Moon. While plastic itself had already been invented,
NASA scientists improved the plastic so that it was harder and less flexible, ideal for
storing food. NASA also invented dehydrated food for space flight, much like the dried
fruit in the bowl. Dehydrated food lasts longer, is lighter, and takes up less space, all
important necessities in space.
The television has several plastic components that were developed by
NASA. Without these components, all televisions would still be the large, console variety
of the 1940's and 50's, and would be much more expensive to manufacture. The
television is tuned to CNN, a station that relies heavily upon satellites to receive news
information the minute it happens from anywhere in the world. Satellites were the U.S.
Space Program's first steps into space. Without the use of satellites, the video of events
we see on television so routinely today would have to be sent over phone lines or
physically transported to the news station, slowing down the process of reporting of
news. Also, news anchors would only be able to broadcast from studios, and never live at
the scene of the action.
The computer has been completely re-designed because of the U.S. Space
Program. In fact, without the Space Program, personal computers would probably not
even exist today. In the 1950's and 60's, computers were so large that they filled entire
rooms. These computers were slower and had a greater propensity to malfunction in
comparison to today's models. Because of space exploration, however, today's computers
are small, lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and more powerful than their larger
predecessors. The wallpaper on this particular PC is an airplane, whose fuel has seen
dramatic improvements through research conducted by NASA. Because of fuel
development for such projects as the Space Shuttle, airplane fuel is now safer and cleaner
than it was thirty years ago. Pilots no longer fly in fear of onboard explosions because of
unstable fuel, and the improved fuel also allows aircraft to travel at greater rates of speed.
The steel that is used in building aircraft is also a development of NASA, used in the
construction of the Space Shuttle. It is lightweight and remarkably strong, making the
aircraft stronger, safer, and lighter, and thus decreasing fuel consumption.
Elaborate:
The three items should be put away to avoid potential distractions. You should then
resume your position in front of the class beside the yellow box, and resume your peaking. The
"lecture" that follows should be completely class-driven. This is very important. The words
written here should only serve as a guideline. Be sure to wait an appropriate amount of time for
students to answer your questions. Look for students to answer, and do not answer any questions
yourself. Do not ask the questions in a rhetorical manner. You can direct students towards the
discovery, but the discovery should be the student's own doing.
“ Okay, so far we have discussed some of the technological benefits that have resulted
from space exploration. But do you think that is the only reason that humans explore space, in
hopes of generating useful by-products of the research? I don't think so. I think that something
much more profound is at work when we attempt to justify space exploration, something that I
think is living inside each one of you.
You see, some people believe that the billions of dollars spent on space exploration would
be better spent on projects here on Earth. It is true that space exploration is very, very expensive,
and as we have learned, can also be very, very dangerous. Some people believe that things like
better computers and dehydrated food are not enough to justify the continued exploration of
space, and that we should spend our money on making the Earth a better place to live.
But I believe that there are more important reasons that humans explore space, more
important than improved jet fuel or satellite television. I believe that there is a need that lives
inside every human being, and I believe that it is living inside you right now.
How many of you have noticed that I have a box up here with me? Why do you think you might
have noticed the box? Do you think that the color of the box had anything to do with you
noticing? How about the question mark on front? How about your own curiosity? How many of
you were just curious in general about what might be in the box, regardless of the color or
design?
What if I told you that there was a hidden basement in the school, a basement that no
student had seen in the last fifty years. How many of you would want to go down and explore the
hidden basement? Why would you want to explore it?
What if I told you that a cave had been discovered at the edge of the school property, and that it
was big and deep and dark? How many of you would want to explore the cave after school? Why
might you want to explore the cave? Would you be worried about the cave being dangerous?
Why would you want to explore the cave despite the danger?
I think that your answers prove that each of you are infected with the need to know (write "the
need to know" on the chalkboard). But don't worry, this isn't a bad infection, in fact I think it's a
pretty good one. Throughout history, humans have sought to understand the unknown, just like
you guys seek to understand you unknown today. Whether it be a new continent, a new ocean, or
a new basement, men and women have been traditionally willing to risk their lives and their
fortunes to explore the unknown. Lewis and Clark explored the Mid-West. Admiral Byrd
explored the South Pole. Marco Polo traveled to China. Who can give me another example of
explorers from history?
I think that each of you has a little bit of an explorer in you. Each one of you have
expressed an interest in knowing what is in my box. Why? Why has it become so important to you
to know what is hidden in my box? I think that my box is a lot like outer space. Who can guess
why I might think this way? Do you agree with my analogy or do you disagree, and why?
I think that my box is a lot like outer space because it represents the unknown. None of
you know what is hiding in my box. You can guess, but you'll never know for sure unless I show
you. Or unless you look for yourself. It is unknown to all of you. In a lot of ways outer space is
the last unknown place to humans to explore. For the most part, we have finished exploring our
own planet. Some people are still exploring the ocean bottom, but humans have pretty much been
everywhere on Earth. Many people call outer space the Last Frontier. Why do you think people
give it this name?
Now what if I told you that opening my box might be dangerous, that some of you might get hurt.
I bet that some of you would still want me to open the box, wouldn't you? Why? I think it's
because there is a little bit of an astronaut in each one of us. We are all willing to take some risk
in order to solve a mystery, or to explore a new world. That's how humans are. It's normal. So
even though space exploration is very expensive and very dangerous, I believe that humans will
continue to explore outer space no matter what, because that is who they are. We are all filled
with a "need to know."
Phase two should flow right into phase three without interruption. However, it is important that
the students understand that a new topic is about to be discussed. Begin phase three by writing
the word "potential" on the chalkboard underneath "the need to know." Then return to your
position beside the box. All the discussion rules for phase two still apply here. Allow the
discussion to be class-driven, and wait for answers to all your questions.
Before I let you know what is in my box, let's talk about one final justification for space
exploration. I have put the word "potential" here on the board. Who can explain to the class
what this word means?
In a lot of ways, potential is like the unknown. Both are mysteries to us. But when we talk about
potential, we are generally talking about the good things that can come from our discovery
process. For example, let's talk about the potential of my box. What could be hidden inside these
cardboard walls? What is the box's potential? Do you think that the potential of this box has
anything to do with your "need to know?" How are those two concepts linked?
I think that potential plays an important role in our need to know. If we cannot see
potential in something, we are generally less interested in it. But with potential, with the
opportunity for reward, our need to know becomes stronger and stronger. We've talked about the
potential for my box, so now let's talk about the potential for outer space. What potential does
outer space have for humans? New worlds to visit or live on? New people to learn from? New
technology that we cannot yet imagine?
The unfortunate thing about potential, however, is that it is never guaranteed. What if I told you
that there was nothing in my box? How would you feel then? Would you be disappointed? What
if you discovered that the hidden basement in the school was nothing more than a small, dark,
empty room underneath the boy's bathroom? How would you feel then?
But what if tomorrow you came to class and my box was still here, maybe over on that
desk instead. Would any of you wonder if something was in it, even after finding out that it was
empty today? Why would you still wonder, after having been so disappointed the day before?
I think that you would wonder for two reasons. First, your need to know. Just because
you were disappointed once doesn't mean that the explorer inside of you ran away and died.
Your curiosity will live on, probably for the rest of your life. And it's your curiosity, your need to
know, that would make you want to look inside my box again and again.
Secondly, the potential of my box will keep you coming back. Just because it was empty
today doesn't mean it will be empty tomorrow. You never know what mysteries you can uncover,
just by getting up and taking a peak.
I think outer space is a lot like my box for that reason as well. Can anyone guess why I
might think this way? There is absolute limitless potential in outer space. As we have discussed
before, outer space is infinite. So maybe there was no life on Venus and Mercury, and maybe we
can't live on Mars or Jupiter, but there are literally billions of worlds out there still waiting to be
discovered. So as long as humans don't become discouraged by failure, I believe that we will
eventually succeed.
How would you feel if tomorrow my box was full of candy, but you didn't bothered to
look? Would you feel disappointed? Angry at yourself?
Similarly, wouldn't it be a tragedy if there was a race of people just waiting to be
discovered, but we got too tired and frustrated to keep looking? It is the limitless potential of
outer space that keeps human beings looking to the stars. It is our hope, our dream, that
somewhere, someone is looking back at us, hoping for the same potential.”
Evaluate:
“For tonight's homework, I would like you to write three, well formulated essays about
what we have discussed today. Each should be about one page long. In the first essay, I would
like you to defend the argument that the development of computers as a result of the efforts of the
U.S. Space Program has alone justified the expense and danger of space exploration.
In the second essay, I would like you to judge whether or not the seemingly inherent
human "need to know" is appropriate justification for the U.S. Space Program. For this essay,
you may disagree with what I have proposed today in class. Just be careful. If you do disagree,
make sure that you explain very clearly why you disagree. I would also like you to restate my
argument at the beginning of your essay before you disagree with it, so that I'm sure you
understood what we talked about today in class.
For the third essay. I would like judge whether or not the possibility for future discovery
in the U.S. Space Program warrants the cost and danger of future space exploration. Here
again, you may disagree, but be sure to restate my argument first and be as clear as possible
with your disagreements. Are there any questions? “
Plans for Individual Differences
For students unable to fully understand the link between space exploration and
technology, you could assign reading on the subject either from the textbook or supplemental
materials. You could also do a more direct lesson on the subject to those students with difficulty.
You could also pair off a student who failed to understand with one who did understand, and ask
them to review the material together.
For students unable to fully understand the concept of "the need to know," you could
assign the student additional reading on explorers from history, then assign a paper asking why
these explorers risked their lives and fortunes on the unknown. You could also give a more direct
lesson on the concept of curiosity, and compare curiosity with "the need to know." You could
also ask the student to write a short story about the hidden basement or cave that were discussed
in class. Ask the student to write about a character who is interested in exploring the basement or
cave and ask him or her to explain why.
For students unable to fully understand the concept of potential, you could give a more
direct lesson on the subject, talking about the potential in many things. You could also have the
student read a story in which the protagonist struggles to realize his or her potential. You could
(and should, even if every student understood the concept) wait a couple of days and then fill the
box with candy (be sure to consult student medical forms for allergies prior to this). Inevitably a
curious student will check the box, demonstrating to the class the persistence required in
discovering potential.
Part 6 – Assessment Strategies
There are four goals for this unit:
1. Students will be able to identify and describe the separate components
that make up the universe, including the planets, the moon, the sun,
stars, and comets/asteroids/meteors.
2. Students will be able to identify differences between the earth and the
other objects of the solar system.
3. Students will be able to explain the motion of the objects in space.
4. Students will be able to explain how and why scientists study space, and
how the study of space has improved and will continue to improve life
on earth.
Assessments throughout the Unit:
o The students writing a letter to a “friend” in which they pretend to be a
planet, and they must describe themselves and what makes them so
interesting. Goal Number One
o The students will write a paragraph describing why the moon looks
different every night. Goal Number One and Three
o The students will complete a lab report from the moon craters
experiment. Goal Number One and Two
o Students will create moon phase drawings. Goal Number Three
o Students will create their own solar eclipse and will write a journal about
the different phases of the eclipse. They will make their own model of
the solar eclipse. Goal Number One and Three
o Students will create a star map. Goal Number One and Three
o The students will write a take-home essay explaining how space studies
have helped them personally. Goal Number Four
o Students will be evaluated by anecdotal notes that the teacher will take
throughout the unit as they work in their groups. Goals One, Two, Three,
and Four
o Student discussions of their explorations will also aid in evaluating what
they have learned. Goals One, Two, Three, and Four
o Students will write journal entries and CMAP or display of a
comet/asteroid and its properties. Students will also include a fact and
myth (or legend) concerning a comet Goal One
o Students will interview and discuss the importance of technology in their
quest for learning and scientists’ discoveries. Goal Four
o Students will do journal entries and class discussions that show discovery
through predictions, experiments, and results Goal Three
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Science Instructional Unit