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Lesson Plans
Puzzling Planets
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students


Procedures for Teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Extensions -- Additional Activities.
Tips -- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


Prep

Student Prerequisites:
Students should be aware of the concept of a solar system and the difference between a sun (star) and a planet. They should also know the requirements for life in a biosphere (e.g., earth).

Computer Resources:

You will need to download the Flash plug-in in order to participate in the online student learning activity. Click on the Shockwave icon for download instructions.

You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

Bookmarks:
The following sites should be bookmarked:

  • NASA
    http://www.nasa.gov

    This site provides up-to-date information about what is going on with NASA's space program.

  • Welcome to the Planets
    http://pds.jpl.nasa.gov/planets

    This site allows you to search for information on individual planets.

  • JPL Solar System
    http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/

    This site provides information about our knowlege of the planets in our solar system, and explains NASA's plans for future planetary discoveries.

  • The Nine Planets
    http://www.anu.edu.au/physics/nineplanets/nineplanets.html

    This site allows you to search for information about each planet.

  • Views of the Solar System
    http://www.solarviews.com/eng/homepage.htm

    This searchable Web site provides information about our solar system.

  • Astronomy for Kids
    http://www.dustbunny.com/afk/

    This online magazine includes a virtual night sky that shows where the planets are during the present month.

  • Ask An Astronaut
    http://www.discoverspace.org/askastronaut_current.cfm

    At this site, students can ask an astronaut questions and see what other people have asked in the past.

    Steps

    Time Allotment:
    This lesson requires approximately 4-5 class periods.




  • Introduce the class to basic concepts about our solar system, including planetary orbits, composition of the planets, and so on. Distribute the Puzzling Planetary Search sheet, in Organizers for Students. Students will have to search the suggested Web sites to discover the answers to the questions posed.




  • After students have completed their planetary research, begin a class discussion about what new questions they have about space, space travel, and astronomy. Make a list of inquiries on the board. Have the class decide on three questions they would ask an astronaut if they could. Visit the Ask An Astronaut Web site and submit your class's three questions. Not all questions are answered by the astronauts. Be sure to check back and see if your class's questions were answered. In the meantime, view with your class previously answered astronaut questions.




  • Divide students into groups, depending on computer access. Have each student/group visit Puzzling Planet Activity, in Organizers for Students. They will have to use their research from Step 1 in order to participate. You will need to download the Flash plug-in onto all the computers used by the class in order for students to view the activity.




  • Puzzling Planetary Search Answers:

    1. What planet was discovered in the 20th century? Pluto
    2. What planet is considered to be Earth's twin in mass and size? Venus
    3. What planet is closest to the sun? Mercury
    4. What star is closest to the Earth? The Sun
    5. What planet in our solar system has the most moons? Saturn
    6. What planet has the largest volcano in our solar system? Mars
    7. What two planets have no moons? Mercury and Venus
    8. What is the largest planet in our solar system? Jupiter
    9. What planet has the shortest year in our solar system? Mercury
    10. What planet boasts the Great Red Spot? Jupiter
    11. What is the largest satellite orbiting the Earth? The Moon
    12. On what planet in our solar system would you weigh the least? Pluto
    13. What planet is called the Red Planet? Mars
    14. How many months does it take for the moon to revolve around the Earth? One
    15. What planet in our solar system has a moon almost as big as itself? Pluto
    16. What planet is known as the "blue planet"? Earth
    17. What planet appears blue because of the methane gas in its atmosphere? Neptune
    18. Oberon is what planet's outermost moon? Uranus



    Extensions

    Reading: In newspapers, we frequently read of new developments in science. Look for new discoveries concerning the planets and keep a bulletin board of new developments.

    Art: Have students draw an imaginary planet and write a story of how they could survive on this planet. Students should use their knowledge of requirements for life and of planets for their projects.

    Tips



    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer, in order to show them examples of what to look for.) When the groups have finished working, have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. Groups can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also set the class up so that each computer is dedicated to certain sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.



    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.



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