- Models have limitations
- Our solar system, galaxy and universe are vast
- Space is not a vacuum
To support your astronomy curriculum, check out the following Websites for science project ideas, lesson plans, and more. Note, while Spaced Out: A Cosmic Scene provides links to these web-based resources that we feel are appropriate, we cannot guarantee that all the content presented in these web resources is scientifically accurate. As an educator it is your responsibility to verify the accuracy of all resources used with your students.
Planet Panorama – Dr. Mangala Sharma, astronomer at Ohio University, has developed a display (which schools can borrow) and background information for distances in the solar system. Episode 5 “Planets are Spatial” is developed around the information on this website.
Great resource providing an overview of many aspects of our solar system. There are animations and web links with promise to be informative.
A partial Content list of site: The Solar System
- Solar System Composition
- Interplanetary Space
- The Terrestrial Planets
- The Jovian Planets
- Solar System Animation
- Views of the Solar System
- Sun and Planet Summary
View of our solar system from outside of the solar system. On February 14, 1990, the cameras of Voyager 1 pointed back toward the Sun and took a series of pictures of the Sun and the planets, making the first ever "portrait" of our solar system as seen from the outside. This image is a diagram of how the frames for the solar system portrait were taken. http://www.solarviews.com/cap/misc/vgr_fam2.htm
THE THOUSAND-YARD MODEL or, The Earth as a Peppercorn: This is a classic exercise for visualizing just how BIG our Solar System really is. Both the relative size and spacing of the planets are demonstrated in this outdoor exercise, using a mere peppercorn to represent the size of the Earth.
Scale model calculator for our solar system. This page will create a scale model of the Solar system, based on a series of preset Sun sizes. The sun may be selected from five different options.
Math scale model resource – use of proportions. Students select a size of the earth than calculate the proportionate size of other objects in the universe. ‘Jobs’ are provided with answer key. These ‘jobs’ could be used as student activities.
Kepler Telescope and NASA mission
Solar System size and scale model activity kids could do at home – easily adopted so parents can drive son or daughter the recommended distances.
Website for detecting planets – http://www.astronomynotes.com/solfluf/s12.htm
GLOBE at Night – http://www.globe.gov/GaN/
Find easy-to-follow instructions for participating in this project at this site, where students can also record their observations of the night sky. Prior to the star-hunting event, students can log on to learn about Orion's role in Greek mythology, star magnitude, and other topics.
International Year of Astronomy 2009 – http://www.globe.gov/GaN/
A list of global projects designed to promote awareness of astronomy and dark skies. Some activities are too advanced for elementary school students.
The GLOBE Program – http://www.globe.gov/r
Abundant resources for integrating related lessons about such topics as atmosphere and climate, clouds, and hydrology.
400 Years of the Telescope – http://www.400years.org/
Information about a new documentary that follows astronomical discoveries starting from Galileo's first peek through the telescope. The site offers a viewing schedule and "Profiles in Astronomy" that may serve as excellent bases for history lessons.
Hands-On Optics – http://www.hands-on-optics.org/home/
Six modules for teaching about optics. Lessons range from studies of lasers to magnification and communicating with light.
The International Dark-Sky Association – viewing the night sky and the importance of darkness for biological growth. Lessons on the solar system and the effects of light pollution on wildlife, as well as science, writing, and art projects for students ages 7-12. http://www.darksky.org/mc/page.do
This site even offers suggestions for a ‘Star Party’ with your students http://www.darksky.org/mc/page.do?sitePageId=56428&orgId=idsa
National Optical Astronomy Observatory http://www.noao.edu/ with a link to educational applications http://www.noao.edu/education/
NOAO is engaged in programs to develop the next generation of telescopes, instruments, and software tools necessary to enable exploration and investigation through the observable Universe, from planets orbiting other stars to the most distant galaxies in the Universe.
Sun As a Star: Science Learning Activities for Afterschool - The Sun As a Star activities teach concepts related to the sun with opportunities for the students to investigate each idea. Most of the nine sequential activities can be completed in about one hour.
Here you can download a 37-page teacher resource guide, which suggests 9 activities you can do with your students, many of these activities support information presented in Spaced Out: A Cosmic Scene episodes.
- Activities 2, 3, 7, 8 can be used with Spaced Out episodes 6 and 8
- Activity 4 can be used with Spaced Out episode 1 and 2
- Activities 5 and 6 can be used with Spaced Out episode 4
Myth vs. Reality – misconceptions of our solar system
Amazing Space home page http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/eds/
Amazing Space link to misconceptions of our solar system http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/resources/myths/solar_system.php
Common Misconceptions in Astronomy - table provides common misconceptions and explains the correct reasoning. Scroll down through table to find misconceptions of distances in the universe to star spectrum. Table produced by Cengage Learning to supplement textbook on astronomy.
Ohio Resource Center has identified misconceptions that may relate to content taught in earlier grades. ORC recommended resources to help correct student misconceptions.. These resources, lesson ideas, should be incorporated into instruction in a way that is developmentally appropriate and that corrects misconceptions as a part of standards-based instruction.
Solar system and planets, ratios and proportions, scale models, astronomical units, light year, metric measurement
Here are a number of strategies and activities you might use to help uncover student misconceptions, the level of student learning and areas in which students might need further instruction.
The use of graphic organizers can be used as pre-assessment activities (or formative assessments, if we use the results to help us plan!), as embedded assessment strategies and even as final assessment assignments. The most common graphic organizers are the KWL charts and Venn diagrams. The freeology website (http://freeology.com/) has a large variety of graphic organizers that are downloadable. This site also provides a very brief explanation of how to use each graphic organizer.
Video Post-Viewing Assessment:
The "Give One; Get One" (http://freeology.com/graphicorgs/page6.php) summary strategy is a useful tool to identify what the students have retained from the information in the video. Provide the students with a grid of twelve squares. In any three squares, the students record three different facts or ideas that they remember from the video. The students then begin to ask their classmates to fill in the other squares with information from the video that has not yet been recorded on the grid. Each classmate can fill in only one square on an individual's grid, but students can add information to as many different grids as they want. The grid can now be used in a variety of ways, such as notes for the students as they write a summary of the information addressed in the video.
There are some common misconceptions about the solar system. Present the following questions to your students and record their response to each statement. (All statements are false.) While the video, Planets Are Spatial does not address all of these misconceptions it should stimulate students to rethink their understanding of our solar system.
The Solar System http://www.astro.illinois.edu/~jkaler/class/miscon.html
- The solar system is very crowded.
- The solar system contains only the Sun, Moon, and planets.
- Meteors are falling stars.
- Comets sweep across the sky like meteors.
- Comet tails stream behind the comet as the comet moves.
- Comets are burning.
- Planets are close together or are large compared with the distances between them.
- The planets are always arranged in a straight line away from the Sun.
- Alignments of planets are dangerous and can affect the Earth.
- Your personality and future are determined by the positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets.
- Planetary orbits are circular.
- Mercury is hot everywhere on its surface.
- Giant planets have solid surfaces.
- Saturn is the only planet with rings.
- Jupiter and Saturn are made of gas.
- The Sun is made of molten lava and is solid in parts.
- The asteroid belt is crowded and dangerous.
Episode 5, Planets Are Spatial, lends itself well to the compare/contrast matrix graphic organizer. A blank template can be found at
Use this matrix as an alternative to a Venn diagram to show similarities and differences between two concepts or topics. For Episode 5 students could do a compare/contrast matrix (limitations) of scale modeling in science or a compare/contrast matrix of a galaxy and the Universe.
How to Collect Solar System Trading Cards is an online activity from the Amazing Space website. The accompanying Teacher Page provides teaching suggestions that can be used to assess student knowledge of the planets and the solar system.
You could have the students carry on an astro-treasure-hunt on the Internet to search for what’s in the solar system and develop their own picture of what a busy, richly structured and interesting place our celestial neighborhood is. We suggest using some of the bulleted statements from the pre-assessment activity on common misconceptions.
Have your students answer this question about space travel:
Knowing about these distances in our own solar system, what do you think about traveling to other galaxies? Explain why you think this!
Students should investigate the farthest ANY man-made object has traveled. Voyager spacecraft has left the Solar System, but has a long, long way to go before it even approaches the next nearest star.
Math Scale Model Resource – use of proportions.
Students select a size of the earth than calculate the proportionate size of other objects in the universe. The web resource provides six “Jobs” with answer keys. These “jobs” could be used as student activities and assessment.
Do The Sun and Earth Size Comparison on the Athena Project website to assess student understanding. In this activity, students explore the size comparison of Earth and Sun using measured values and by making a scale model using pennies. Students are asked to assess the results of both comparisons in writing. http://www.k12.wa.us/EdTech/Athena/curric/space/sun/sunearth.html
Benchmarks and Grade Level Indicators Addressed in Episode and Related Activities:
EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE GRADES 7-8
B. Explain that the universe is composed of vast amounts of matter, most of which is at incomprehensible distances and held together by gravitational force. Describe how the universe is studied by the use of equipment such as telescopes, probes, satellites and spacecraft.
Grade Level Indicators:
1. Describe how objects in the Solar System are in regular and predictable motions that explain such phenomena as days, years, seasons, eclipses, tides and moon cycles.
6. Explain interstellar distances are measured in light years (e.g., the nearest star beyond the sun is 4.3 light years away).
8. Name and describe tools used to study the universe (e.g., telescopes, probes, satellites and spacecraft).
EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE GRADES 9-10
A. Explain how evidence from stars and other celestial objects provide information about the processes that cause changes in the composition and scale of the physical universe.
C. Explain the 4.5 billion-year-history of Earth and the 4 billion-year-history of life on Earth based on observable scientific evidence in the geologic record.
F. Summarize the historical development of scientific theories and ideas, and describe emerging issues in the study of Earth and space sciences.
Grade Level Indicators:
A. Describe that stars produce energy from nuclear reactions and that processes in stars have led to the formation of all elements beyond hydrogen and helium.
Number, Number Sense and Operations 8-10
A. Use scientific notation to express large numbers and numbers less than one.
Grade Level Indicator – grade 8
1. Use scientific notation to express large numbers and small numbers between 0 and 1.
Data Analysis and Probability 8-10
E. Evaluate the validity of claims and predictions that are based on data by examining the appropriateness of the data collection and analysis.
F. Construct convincing arguments based on analysis of data and interpretation of data.
Grade Level Indicators – grade 8
9. Construct convincing arguments based on analysis of data and interpretation of graphs.
Science and Mathematics Standards Addressed through Suggested Teacher Interaction with Students:
Science and Technology
Students should recognize that science and technology are interconnected and that using technology involves assessment of the benefits, risks, and costs. Students should build scientific and technological knowledge, as well as the skill required to design and construct devices. In addition, they should develop the processes to solve problems and to understand that problems may be solved in several ways.
Students develop scientific habits of mind as they use the processes of scientific inquiry to ask valid questions, and to gather and analyze information. They understand how to develop hypotheses and make predictions. They are able to reflect on scientific practices as they develop plans of action to create and evaluate a variety of conclusions. Students are also able to demonstrate the ability to communicate their findings to others.
Scientific Ways of Knowing
Students realize that the current body of scientific knowledge must be based on evidence, be predictive, logical, subject to modification, and limited to the natural world. This includes demonstrating an understanding that scientific knowledge grows and advances as new evidence, is discovered to support or modify existing theories, as well as to encourage the development of new theories. Students are able to reflect on ethical scientific practices and demonstrate an understanding of how the current body of scientific knowledge reflects the historical and cultural contributions of women and men who provide us with a more reliable and comprehensive understanding of the natural world.