OUT OF THIS WORLD
Grades 4-6
Students are introduced to the solar system and its place in
the universe. They begin to grasp the idea of very large numbers by estimating
and computing how long it will take the class to make a million x's. Students
estimate and measure to make relative scale models of the planets.
Look Up, Earth: Its Place in the Universe
OTHER VIDEO RESOURCES
NASA, Our Solar System
Students will be able to:
- Estimate the numbers of items contained in jars
- Describe the Earth relative to the solar system, to the galaxy, and
to the universe
- Calculate how long it will take the class to make one million x's
- Describe the patterns of movement of the Earth and other planets in
the solar system
- Measure and make models that compare relative size
- Construct graphs to compare size
Pre-viewing activity
The class will need
- 500 ml container (or 1 pint) filled with jelly beans
- 500 ml container (or 1 pint) filled with small beans
- A timer or watch with a second hand
Each group of 4 students will need:
- 500 ml container (or 1 pint) filled with small beans
- 1 small medicine cup (25 ml or so)
- Balance scale for weighing beans
- 1 sheet 1.5" grid paper
Viewing activities
The class will need:
- Overhead projector
- Overhead transparency of the address side of a postcard
- A timer or watch with a second hand
Each group of 4 students will need:
- Paper for recording x's and for calculations
Post-viewing activities
The class will need:
- A 60 cm circle cut from a full sheet of newspaper with the name 'Jupiter'
written in large letters to represent the planet Jupiter
- Cards with names of all the planets except Jupiter
- Cards with names and relative diameter of all the planets except Jupiter.
The relative sizes of the other planets should be written on cards as follows:
Mercury: 2 CM Saturn: 58 CM
Venus: 6 CM Uranus: 26 CM
Earth: 6.4 CM Neptune: 24 CM
Mars: 3.4 CM Pluto: 1.6 CM
- Overhead projector
- Overhead transparency of a 1 cm (1/2") grid
Each group of 4 students will need:
- 2 full size sheets of newspaper
- A 50 cm piece string and a pencil to use as a compass
- Markers for labeling planet models and making graphs
- 4 sheets of 1 cm or 1/2" graph paper
- Estimate: A rough or approximate calculation or an educated guess
- Sampling: A representative part of a larger whole or group
- Universe: All the galaxies and the space they exist in
- Galaxy: A group of billions of stars
- Solar system: The nine planets, their moons and the sun
- Orbit: The path of one object in space around another
- Ellipse: The shapes of the orbits of planets
1. Show the students a 500 ml container (pint jars are about
right) filled with jelly beans. Ask, "How many jelly beans do you think
are in this jar? How could we find out? Without counting the jelly beans
one by one, how could we estimate close to the number?" Listen to students
give ideas. Then set the jelly beans aside and show the class a pint jar
filled with a small item such as small beans. Say, "We're going to
figure out some different ways to estimate how many beans are in this jar."
2. Divide the class into groups of four students. Give each group a 500
ml container (or pint container) filled with small beans. Say, "Today
we are going to have a contest. I am going to give you three minutes to
find out, as near as you can, how many beans are in your container. Time
the class. Ask each group to report their answer. There will likely be a
wide range of answers. Ask, "Why do you think there are such big differences
in our answers?" Help the students understand that since they didn't
have time to count, they had to rely on other methods and make guess. Explain
that they were estimating. Have different groups report their methods for
coming up with a good guess.
3. Say, "Do you think there are the same number of peas in each container?
Are the number of peas close? How can we make better estimates of the number
of peas in the jars?" Discuss with the students various ways of estimating
unknown quantities. (Some methods are dividing into small cups and counting
a sampling, weighing a sampling, arranging the split peas on a grid and
counting
a sampling...) Direct the students to use a sampling method to estimate
how many peas are in their containers. When they have completed this activity,
compare the different groups' estimations. Most of the estimations should
be fairly close. If any of the estimations are dissimilar, discuss with
the students how this could be.
4. Again show the class the container of jelly beans. Say, "Now that
you have learned some ways to help you estimate, how can you guess the number
of jelly beans in the jar? We will have a contest to see who can come closest
to guessing the correct number of jelly beans. I hope you will use the things
we have learned to help you guess." Give the students a day or two
to have an opportunity to make their guesses by writing their name and guess
on a paper.
It is important to give students a specific responsibility while
viewing the video. Knowing what they are expected to look for in the video
and what they are supposed to learn helps them focus on particular information
as they view the video. Tell the students that today they are going to find
out more about the universe we live in. They will learn more about our earth,
our solar system and the planets in our solar system. Tell them to watch
for things about each planet in the solar system that makes it unique.
1. BEGIN the tape at the segment entitled The Universe"
and immediately PAUSE on the frame that says the universe".
Ask the students, What do you think scientists mean when they say 'the universe'?
What is in the universe? Is there anything not in the universe?" How
big is the universe? Where did the universe come from?" To give the
students a specific responsibility for viewing this segment ask them to
look for the answers to these questions. RESUME the tape. STOP
the tape when Robot says and then it will shrink back, only to expand again."
Discuss with the students the answers to the questions posed before you
played the segment.
2. RESUME the tape. PAUSE when Robot says, if I signed Robot,
they might think everyone else on earth is like me." Ask and discuss
with students, How would we write our address if we were writing to someone
in another country? What do you think we would have to write on our address
if we were writing to someone on the opposite side of the universe?"
Tell the students to watch the video and look for those things that we might
have to add to our
address. RESUME the tape and STOP when Imagination says, but
all those ideas still seem pretty overwhelming, Robot." Have the class
help you write you class address as described in this segment on the board.
This would be a good place to do the language arts activity suggested in
the Extension section of the lesson.
3. Talk with the class about how difficult it is to comprehend the size
of the universe. Tell them that we use very large numbers to describe the
universe.
Explain: Besides our sun, the star nearest the earth is Alpha Centauri,
and it is 4.3 light years away. Astronomers use the measurement of light
year to describe how far stars are. One light year is the distance it takes
a beam of light to travel in one year.
One light year is 9.44 trillion kilometers (5.88 trillion miles). How long
do you think it would take a jet traveling 800 kilometers (500 miles) per
hour to fly that far? It would take 1,340,000 years! What is a million?
What does it mean? How could we show a million? Is it possible?"
Give the students a specific responsibility for viewing by asking them look
for a way that might understand how much a million is. START the
tape where Robot says, When ideas seem difficult to understand " and
on the screen two children are pasting stars on balloons. STOP the
tape where Robot says, Yes, that's a good way to try and understand large
numbers." Ask the students to suggest ways we can find out what a million
is. Develop a system with the class. Divide the class into groups of four.
Have each student make x's on a piece of paper for one minute. Have each
group add the total number of x's. Record the totals on the board. Have
students calculate how many x's the entire class can make in one minute.
Ask the students to figure out how long it will take to make 1,000,000 x's.
4. FAST FORWARD to the segment entitled Solar System". PAUSE.
To give the students a specific responsibility for viewing ask them to look
for three things about how planets move in the solar system. Ask them to
look for another name for orbits. (Planets spin in orbits or ellipses, they
all move in the same counter clockwise direction, they orbit at different
speeds, depending on how close they are to the sun and they spin on their
axes.) STOP when Robot says, They spin around their own axis or center
like a spinning top." REMOVE THE VIDEO.
5. INSERT the NASA video, Our Solar System". Ask the
students if they know the names of the planets. (How you use this video
will depend on their knowledge. If the students are familiar with the names
of the planets, this video will be a review of names and an overview of
the individual planets. If they don't know the names of the planets I like
to use this video to teach them.) BEGIN the video at the very beginning
when the title shows. PAUSE when the narrator says," with Mercury
closest to the sun and Pluto furthest away." Point at the screen and
ask the students to try to tell you the mnemonic words for each of the letters.
Review with the class until they can repeat the mnemonic saying. Say, Who
can tell me what the name of the planet is for each letter?" REWIND
to the beginning until you see the title on the screen. PAUSE and
tell the students they may sing along with the video. PLAY the tape
through this first section until the narrator says, Mercury is the smallest..."
You may want to repeat this segment several time so that the students are
really familiar with the mnemonics.
6. When you have repeated the first segment several times to your satisfaction,
to give the students a specific responsibility for viewing ask them to look
for one interesting fact about each planet. RESUME and PLAY TO
THE END. Ask the students to share their interesting facts with a person
sitting near them. After they have had time to share their ideas, say, One
of the things we like to know about the planets is how big they are. We
know that Jupiter is the largest planet. But how big do you think Jupiter
is compared with the other planets?" Listen to comments and lead into
the post viewing activities.
Activity 1
Divide the class in groups of four. Show the class a newspaper representation
of the planet Jupiter. Say, "If this circle represents the size of
Jupiter, how big do you think the other planets would be?"
Give each group a full sized piece of newspaper, a string to make a compass
for drawing a circle and a card with the name of one of the other eight
planets. Instruct them to decide how big they think their planet is compared
to Jupiter. Ask them to make it out of the piece of newspaper and label
it. Show them how to make a circle with a string and pencil compass by tying
the string to the pencil and holding the string in the center and then drawing
a circle.
When the groups have completed making the models of their
planets, place the models across the front of the room. Ask the students
what they think about the models. Point out where their models are correct.
Help them see discrepancies.
Explain that to compare the planets it is best to show them in relative
size. Give each group another full sized piece of newspaper and another
card with the diameter of their planet relative to the model of Jupiter.
Ask the students to measure and make another model of their planet using
this new information. Remind them that if they use a compass that the string
length represents the radius and should be half the diameter.
When the groups have completed these models, display them in the front of
the room. Ask the students what they have learned about the relative sizes
of the planets. Emphasize the small size of the first four planets and Pluto
in comparison to the next four gas planets. Mention that the sun would be
a circle _____ cm in diameter and that it would take _____ sheets of newspaper
to make it.
Activity 2
Say, "We have made a representation that compares the relative size
of the planets. How else could we compare the sizes of the planets?"
Explain that scientists often use graphs to help communicate information.
"We are going to show the relative sizes of the planets by using a
bar graph."
Divide the class into groups of four. Write the diameters of the planets
in kilometers (miles) on the board. Ask the students to work together as
a group and round them off to the nearest 100,000 kilometers (mile). (Review
round off if necessary.)
Place an overhead transparency of a graphing grid on the overhead projector.
Show the students how to label the vertical axis with appropriate numbers.
Show them how to arrange the bars for the nine planets along the horizontal
axis. Demonstrate several planets, filling it in on the overhead transparency.
Give graphing paper to each student and have them use the information to
make their own bar graph.
Have a "star party". Arrange for an evening viewing
of the sky. Arrange for telescopes and invite an astronomer to show students
visible planets, some major stars and galaxies. Or arrange for a star
lab to visit your class or a field trip to a nearby planetarium.
Have students research latest findings about planets from recent space probes
and make projects to share the information. Students can make charts and
diagrams to show their information.
Research how space technology has improved daily life. Make a bulletin board
of things related to space age technology. Invite a guest from the space
industry to come and speak to the class about how the space industry has
improved our every day life.
Language Arts
Have students write a letter to an imaginary being in another part of the
solar system, explaining about life on Earth.
Math/Social Studies
Another activity to reenforce the idea of very large numbers is to have
the students calculate how many days, hours, etc. since historic events
such the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Have students make bar graphs to organize the information they gather in
surveys. To augment social studies activities, they can take surveys in
their school and of people they know in their neighborhoods to find out
consumer preferences, political preferences and voter choices.
Master Teacher: Patricia Spigarelli
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