Module 1: The Solar System

Lesson 1: The Planets

Overview

This lesson combines reading of the sections of Touch the Stars with follow-up knowledge questions. For reinforcing of the learning, students choose different sizes of balls to represent the scale between the Sun and Jupiter, Jupiter and Earth, and other comparisons as desired. The walking of the scale model of the solar system - counting steps to measure distances - will form the foundation for distances in the Galaxy and the rest of the Universe.

Learning Objectives

Materials for Activity

Pre-assessment Questions and Discussion

What is the order of the planets?
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Kuiper Belt (including the dwarf planet Pluto), Oort Cloud
Describe the Earth, Mars, Saturn, a comet, an asteroid..
Earth: Dirt with organic matter. Mars: Fine grained sand, reddish color, crushed basalt. Saturn: Gas. Comet: Dirty icy snowball.
Which planet is the largest? Smallest?
Largest: Jupiter, Smallest: Mercury
Which planet is similar in size to Earth? Is it like Earth?
Venus; no, it is a lot hotter on the surface
Which planet is your favorite one, and why?
Discuss.

Text

'Touch the Stars' (p. 50 to 71), reading broken up into several sections. Follow up questions for each section are included.

  1. Inner planets (Mercury through Mars): p. 50 - 54, top of p. 55
    1. Name the inner planets and describe similarities and differences.
    2. Which planet is closest to the Sun? Which one is the hottest?
    3. Why isn't the closest planet also the hottest?
    4. What is the asteroid belt?
  2. The Outer Planets or Gas Giants (with brief discussion of the asteroid belt): p. 55 - 62 (half page, stop at 'The Comets'.
    1. Name the giant planets.
    2. Other than their sizes, how are they different from the inner planets?
    3. What can you state about Jupiter? (List everything you can think of.)
  3. The Comets (Kuiper Belt and Oort cloud): p. 62 -67 (starting half-way down the page at 'The Comets' and stopping about three-fourths down at 'Meteors'.)
    1. What is a comet made off?
    2. What are the difference between gas and dust tails?
    3. Do comets always have tails?
  4. Meteors: Bottom of p. 67 to 71
    1. What is a meteor
    2. Why do meteors look like bright stars falling from the sky?

Follow up Questions on the Reading

Included with sectional reading above.

Activity

Predicting, testing, exploring:

Summary and Post-Assessment

Debriefing of student interpretations of distances, and comparison of actual scaled sizes with their predicted scale sizes.

Relevant Information and Links

Making a comet in the classroom; image shows dry ice sublimating as student stirs in the water. Making the comet in the classroom was an enjoyable and enlightening experience for our blind testers and instructors.

Lesson 2: Moon Phases and Eclipses

(Text and Activities from Noreen Grice Phases of the Moon Lesson Plan)

Materials for Activity

Learning Objectives

Pre-assessment Questions & Discussion

What is the difference between a solar and a lunar eclipse?
[A lunar eclipse is when the Earth blocks out the light of the sun hitting the moon, a solar eclipse the moon blocks out the sun as viewed from a portion of the Earth]

Text

Reading about the Moon, phases and eclipses (p. 32 bottom to 49) in 'Touch the Stars' in segments.

  1. Our Moon: pp. 32 - 33.
    1. Name two characteristics that the Moon shares with planets. (A)
    2. Explain why our word "month" is an appropriate word to use for what it describes. (A)
  2. Lunar Phases: pp. 33 - 41. Tactile image on pg. 35 shows progression of Moon phases. Tactile picture on pg. 39 explains why the Moon waxes and wanes.
    1. Name two ways that the Moon's appearance will change each month. (B)
  3. Eclipses: pp. 42 - 49. Tactile picture on pg. 45 shows total solar eclipse geometry. Tactile picture on pg. 47 shows the total lunar eclipse geometry.
    1. How is an eclipse of the Moon different from its phases? (B & C)
    2. What set up is required to get a total eclipse of the Sun? (C)
    3. Why does only a small region of the Earth experience a total solar eclipse when it happens? (Hint: See top figure of page 45.) (C)
    4. How would your answer to the previous question change if we were talking about a total lunar eclipse? (Hint: See top figure of page 47.) (C)

Follow up Question(s) on Reading

Stated above.

Reinforcing Activity

Modeling:

For this activity, you will need to create a tactile Moon. In order to do this, apply a small amount of glue to one end of the stick and insert that end into the styrene/styrofoam (Moon) ball. Next, using the puff paint, apply dots to only one half of the ball (from top to bottom). Allow the puff paint to dry. [An alternate method is to carve a rough surface on the ball.]

Begin the activity when the tactile Moon is dry. One student holds the Moon and a second student (the Earth) faces that person. The Earth student puts a hand on the shoulder of the Moon student. They practice, each person moving to the right, in a circle around an imaginary point between them (as if they were dancing). Eight steps should complete the circle. The Earth student's hand on the shoulder of the Moon student helps both students move as a unit and remain face to face.

Once both students are comfortable turning as a unit, the third student (located a few feet away) shakes the jingle bells. This person represents the Sun. The bells provide an audible reference to the direction of the Sun.

The Moon student stands so that his/her back is to the Sun. The Sun student's ringing bells should be heard in front of the Earth student. The tactile side of the ball represents the illuminated part of the Moon and should face the Sun (not visible to the Earth student).

The Earth student puts his/her other hand on the Moon (ball). The student touching the Moon should use the palm of the hand to touch one side of the Moon. When the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned in this way, the Moon is in New Moon Phase.

The Earth student takes one step to the right as the Moon student takes one step to the right. The bells should be heard in front of and to the right of the Earth student. Using the edges of the stick as a reference, the Moon student rotates the stick to the left, halfway to the next side of the stick so that the edge is facing the Moon (student). A small curve of tactile Moon is visible (to the Earth) on the right side of the ball. This is the Waxing Crescent Moon.

The Earth and Moon students each take another step to the right. The bells should be heard to the right of the Earth student. The Moon student rotates the stick to the left until the first side of the stick is reached. About half of the Moon should be visible to the Earth student on the right side. This is the First Quarter Moon.

The Earth and Moon students each take another step to the right. The bells should be heard from behind the right side of the Earth student. The Moon student rotates the stick to the left, to the next edge (more than half of the tactile Moon should be visible from the Earth) on the right side. This is the Waxing Gibbous Moon.

The Earth and Moon students each take another step to the right. The bells should be heard behind the Earth student. The Moon student rotates the stick to the left to reach the second side of the stick. The entire tactile Moon is visible from the Earth. This is the Full Moon.

The Earth and Moon students each take another step to the right. The bells should be heard from behind the left side of the Earth student. The Moon student rotates the stick to the left, halfway to the next side. Some of the tactile Moon has disappeared from the right. This is the Waning Gibbous Moon.

The Earth and Moon students each take another step to the right. The bells should be heard from the left side of the Earth student. The Moon student rotates the stick to the left, to the third side. Only the left half of the tactile Moon should be visible from the Earth. This is the Last Quarter Moon.

The Earth and Moon students each take another step to the right. The bells should be heard from the left front of the Earth student. The Moon student rotates the stick to the left to the next edge. Only a curve of tactile Moon should be visible on the left edge. This is the Waning Crescent Moon.

The Earth and Moon students each take another step to the right. The bells should again be heard in front of the Earth student. The Moon student rotates the stick to the left, to the final side of the stick. We have returned to the starting point, the New Moon. You have now completed a simulation of the Moon's phases!

Summary

Relevant Information and Links

National Center for Blind Youth in Science

The Little Moon Phase Book by Noreen Grice at "You Can Do Astronomy