For Grades 6-8
Classroom Activities, Grades 6-8
Activities on this page can help teach these National Science Education Standards (USA):
- The earth is the third planet from the sun in a system that includes the moon, the sun, eight other planets and their moons, and smaller objects, such as asteroids and comets. [grades 5-8]
- Most objects in the solar systems are in regular and predictable motion. those motions explain such phenomena as the day, the year, phases of the moon, and eclipses. [grades 5-8]
- Gravity is the force that keeps planets in orbit around the sun and governs the rest of the motion in the solar system.... [grades 5-8]
Detecting Planet Transits (for grades 6–8) This is part of the GEMS Space Science Sequence for grades 6–8 (Sessions 4.5 andf 4.6) published in 2008. Students model NASA's Kepler mission observations of planetary transits (a planet moving in front of a star) by standing in a circle with model star (light bulb) in the center, and observing, through rolled up paper viewing tubes, a marble planet orbiting the star.
Human Orrery (PDF, 580 KB) (updated 2008 Nov 21; for grades 6–8) This is also part of the GEMS Space Science Sequence (Session 3.10) published in 2008. Students lay out and act out a kinesthetic model of the solar system in 3 dimensions: 2 of space and one of time.
Observing the Jupiter System(Session 3.2 of the GEMS Space Science Sequence for grades 6-8) In 1610, Galileo’s discovery and careful observations of four of Jupiter’s moons were instrumental in disproving the geocentric model, which held that the Earth was at the center of everything, including the Solar System. In this session, students carefully observe Jupiter’s moons just as Galileo did. The class discusses their observations and arrives at the conclusion that Jupiter is at the center of a system of orbiting moons. Students’ reenactment of this discovery highlights the important role of the telescope in the development of astronomy, starting at the very onset of the telescope’s use as a scientific instrument. They learn that the farther out an object orbits, the longer it takes to orbit.
Habitable Planets (PDF, 570 KB) (for Grades 5-8; PDF-350 Kb, 2004 Dec 23)—This activity encourages a discussion about what makes a planet habitable. Students learn that for a planet to support life like we find on Earth, it must have: (a) the right temperature range for there to be liquid water, and (b) the right size range to be able to have suitable atmosphere.
Transit Tracks (designed for grades 6–8; easily adapted for high school) — Using a model of a planet transiting a star, students learn what a transit is, under what conditions a transit may be seen, and what effects a planet’s size and distance from its star have on transit behavior. They interpret graphs of brightness vs time to deduce characteristics of a star-planet system. This activity was developed for an educational poster and is the basis for an investigation for a newly revised edition of the Planetary Science course in the middle school series of Full Option Science System (FOSS).
Nifty things to put on your computer to stay up-to-date on exoplanet discoveries: