Students will understand the following:
For this lesson, you will need:
Adaptations for Older Students:
Have students discuss to what purposes scientists may put their ability to predict astronomical events.
You can evaluate your students on their assignments using the following three-point rubric:
Three points:charts accurately and carefully drawn; information accurate and clearly presented
Two points:charts accurate; information mostly accurate and acceptably presented
One point:charts accurate but carelessly drawn; information inaccurate and poorly presented
Want to Get Away?
Present the following situation to the class:
You’re the new director of Interplanetary-Tours-R-Us. Create a travel brochure for a tour of the solar system. Use encyclopedias, CD-ROMs, or the Internet to obtain data on each of the planets and to print photographs of each. Provide travelers with suggestions on how to enjoy a stay at each planet, depending on the conditions they may encounter there. Be sure to use photographs and color to enhance your clients’ experience. Consider how the design, layout, and copy work to attract the most tourists. Be sure to include recommendations for what to wear, what to bring, and where to eat.
Ask students to compare the Julian, Mayan, Gregorian, and Chinese calendars. Have them create charts illustrating the similarities and differences between the calendars of those cultures. They should include a study of the religious holidays that appear within the course of the year and relate the nature of the culture’s religion to astronomical events and observations.
Have students choose a planet with one or more natural satellites and ask them to develop a calendar for that planet. Mars would be ideal with its two moons, but even a calendar for Jupiter could be developed if one or two of its moons were chosen as the basis for its calendar. Students will want to research the planet’s daily, monthly, and yearly periods to develop the calendar. Have students present their calendars and compare them with Earth’s calendar. (Science teacher Connie Lenhart of North Hagerstown High School in Maryland contributed the idea for this activity.)
Exploring the Night Sky: The Equinox Astronomy Guide for Beginners
Terence Dickinson. Camden House, 1991.
Interested in learning more than how to locate the Big Dipper when you look at the night sky? This book is a guide for stargazers wanting to learn more about the heavens.
A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets
Jay Pasachoff and Donald Menzel. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1992.
The authors of this indispensable, basic field guide of astronomy suggest that this book can be read from a comfortable chair or taken outside on a clear night to be used to interpret the show that the heavens provide for us.
Comets and Shooting Stars [PDF]
Find information and additional activities on this topic at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab website.
Eyes on the Sky, Feet on the Ground: Hands on Astronomy Activities for Kids
A collection of fully illustrated and explained children’s online astronomy activities which provide opportunities for learning how to theorize, experiment, and analyze data.
The Golden Age of the Celestial Atlas
An online exhibition of ancient constellation art and the myths that inspired their creation. From this website create your own transparencies for comparing the difference in constellations invented by the various cultures in history.
Every student in your class can construct and use their very own star and constellation locator (plainisphere), adjustable to various seasons and times during night and day.
It's About Time - Mainly Calendars
What celestial events relate to the measure of a year and the period of a month? Why seven days in a week? Compare a variety calendars throughout history and across cultures.
Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.
Context:The constellations of the zodiac form a band completely encircling the sky, through which the sun, moon, and planets pass in their travels across the heavens.
Context:In different forms, the namesakes for the days of the week are found in the pantheons of many early cultures.
Context:The most accurate modern clocks are regulated by the rhythms of pulsars.
Context:Ancient Nordics named their days after seven celestial gods.
Context:In Ireland, a series of burial mounds were constructed to mark the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice.
Context:The heavenly event that has caused the most profound terror through the centuries is the eclipse.
Context:Known aseclipse chasers, these enthusiasts go to great lengths to make pilgrimages to get a brief glimpse of the unique view a total eclipse provides.
Context:Here in a land without stone, the ancients built the first towns and once-great monuments known as ziggurats from the first mud bricks, much like those still used today.
Context:The Greeks inherited the cosmology of Egypt and Mesopotamia.
This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Subject area:space science
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth’s place in it.
Knows characteristics and movement patterns of the nine planets in our solar system (e.g., planets differ in size, composition, and surface features; planets move around the sun in elliptical orbits; some planets have moons, rings of particles, and other satellites orbiting them).
Knows that the planet Earth and our solar system appear to be somewhat unique, although similar systems might yet be discovered in the universe.
Knows how the regular and predictable motions of the sun and moon explain phenomena on Earth (e.g., the day, the year, phases of the moon, eclipses, tides, shadows).
Knows ways in which technology has increased our understanding of the universe (e.g., visual, radio, and x-ray telescopes collect information about the universe from electromagnetic waves; computers interpret vast amounts of data from space; space probes gather information from distant parts of the solar system; accelerators allow us to simulate conditions in the stars and in the early history of the universe).
George Cassutto, social studies teacher, North Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown, Maryland.
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