Curriculum

STCMS™: Space Systems Exploration

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STCMS™: Space Systems Exploration

Students of all ages have an innate curiosity about our solar system and the broader universe. Space Systems Exploration taps into this curiosity by helping students clarify what they already know about space. Then, starting with the Sun-Earth-Moon system, it challenges them to perform a series of investigations through which they extend and enrich this knowledge. This unit addresses the 3 dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for grades 6 through 8.

Currently using Space Systems Exploration? You can find links to all resources here:

Blackline Masters

Extension Activities

Additional Links

Blackline Masters

Find the complete set of Blackline Masters here. 

Extenstion Activities

Lesson 1- Calendar in the Sky: Introducing the Sun-Earth-Moon System

Science
After students read about how to make pinhole projectors on page 37, have students make their own pinhole projector. Then have them test out their projectors.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.3, RST.6-8.10)

Technological Design
After students read about satellites on page 34, have students play the Build It Yourself: Satellite game 
NGSS:  (Supports MS-ETS1-1)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.10)

Lesson 2- Howling at the Moon: Investigating Lunar Phases

Science
Gather numerous pictures of the Moon from Earth’s view. Have students identify the lunar phase in each picture. They can refer to Table 2.1 on page 43 for reference.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1)
Common Core: NA

Science
Have students observe the Moon every night from the same place for one month. During the observations students must record the date, time, and how many degrees the Moon is from the ground. Student should also draw a picture of the Moon, describe its color, and guess which phase it is in.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1)
Common Core:  (RST.6-8.3)

Lesson 3- Pulling Water: Gravity and Tides

Art
Draw a line across the center of a white piece of paper. Then on one side draw a beach at high tide and on the other draw a beach at low tide.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1, MS-PS2-4)
Common Core: NA

Language Arts
After reading about the tides on Earth’s Moon and Jupiter’s moon, Io, on page 65, create a Venn diagram comparing those two different tides as well as the tides on the Earth.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1, MS-PS2-4)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.1, RST.6-8.7, RST.6-8.10)

Lesson 4- Blackout: Solar and Lunar Eclipses

Science
Imagine that you are a nature writer and photographer doing a piece on total solar eclipses. Using Figure 4.7 on page 77, make a plan for where you should go to get the best photos of partial and total eclipses. Then write explanations as to what each photo reveals. 
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1)
Common Core: (WHST.6-8.2)

Science
Explore why eclipses happen by creating a model. First take a piece of Styrofoam and stick a toothpick into it with a small sphere (Earth) on top. Then place a larger sphere (Moon) behind the smaller one on a table and shine a desk lamp (Sun) directly behind them.
NGSS:  (Supports MS-ESS1-1 and MS-ESS1-3)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.3)

Art
Look at the different photos of solar and lunar eclipses in Lesson 4 and then recreate your own visual representation of a lunar eclipse in any medium you choose. For example, colored pencils, markers, a flipbook, or digital art.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1)
Common Core:  NA

Lesson 5- Reasons for Seasons: Why Earth's Tilt Matters

Art
Draw a line across the center of a white piece of paper. Then pick a date, for example, July 10th. On one half of the paper draw a scene of people outside on the date you chose in the southern hemisphere. Then on the other side draw another scene on the same date in the northern hemisphere.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1)
Common Core: NA

Math
How many ergs of energy are collected from a solar panel on a roof, if the sunlight provides a flux of 300 Joules/sec/meter2, the solar panels have an area of 27 square feet, and are operating for 8 hours during the day? 
NGSS: NA
Common Core: (6.EE.A.2.C)

Lesson 6- Stellar Proportions: Modeling the Solar System

Language Arts
After reading “Astronomy: Looking Back” on page 114, create a timeline for all the events in the text. Also include drawn pictures for each event.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-1)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.7, RST.6-8.10)

Explorationg Activity: Jupiter and Its Moons

Language Arts
After reading about Jupiter (pages 127–129), create an advertisement convincing aliens to move to Jupiter. Include text and images.
NGSS: NA
Common Core: (RST.6-8.1, RST.6-8.10, W.6.1)

Language Arts
After reading about both Tom Watters (pgs. 125-126) and Galileo Galilei (pgs. 130-131), create a Venn diagram comparing the two scientists.
NGSS: NA
Common Core: (RST.6-8.7, RST.6-8.10)

Lesson 7- Gravity: Bending Space-Time

Science
Create Microgravity by cutting a rubber band and tying one end to washers. Tape the free end of the rubber band to the inside of a cup. Hold the cup upside down. Slowly turn the cup right side up so that the washers hang outside the cup. Drop the cup to the floor from eye level. Observe what happens to the weights.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-2, MS-ETS1-1, MS-PS2-2, MS-PS2-4)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.3)

Lesson 8- Keeping it Together: Gravity's Role in the Universe

Math
Take the data from Table 8.1 Orbital Velocity of Planets on page 158 and create a scatterplot with data. Also draw a line of best fit.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-2, MS-PS2-4)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.7, 8.SP.A.1)

Art
After reading about Newton’s three laws of motion on page 157, groups of the students plan and act out a play demonstrating the three laws of motion.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-2, MS-PS2-1, MS-PS2-2)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.10, SL.8.1)

Lesson 9- Geologists in Space: Searching for Water on Mars

Language Arts
Write a persuasive essay defending your opinion whether you believe there is water currently available on Mars or not.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-3)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.8, WHST.6-8.1.b)

Language Arts
Divide students into groups of four. Each student in each group will read a different section of the Science of Mars, which are life, climate, geology, and human exploration. After everyone in the group has finished reading each student will teach the group about the subject they are an “expert” on. All students should take notes on all four sections.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ESS1-3)
Common Core: (RST.6-8.1, RST.6-8.10, SL.6.1.A)

Lesson 10- The Challenges of Space Exploration

Language Arts
Write an advertisement as someone working for NASA looking to hire new engineers to repair equipment used in space. The ad should include the requirements of applicants, a job description, and the benefits of the job.
NGSS: (Supports MS-ETS1-1)
Common Core: (W.6.1)

Language Arts
Pick a movie, TV show, or book that you’re familiar with that portrays space exploration. Then create a table with the headings “Accurate” and “Inaccurate.” Complete the table with information or characteristics from the movie/TV show/book you chose.
NGSS: NA
Common Core: (RST.6-8.8)

Additional Links

Lessson 1- Calendar in the Sky: Introducing the Sun-Earth-Moon System

Eye's on the Sky

NASA provides real mission data in a 3-D environment for you to explore the cosmos from your computer.

Orbit Simulator
Students can explore the characteristics of the orbits of planets and comets on this computer simulator.

Lesson 2- Howling at the Moon: Investigating Lunar Phases

Apollo to the Moon
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s online exhibit shows the history of the United States’ human exploration of the Moon.

Lesson 3- Pulling Water: Gravity and Tides

Tides and Water Levels
Explore tides through NOAA Ocean Service Education.

Ocean Currents: Motion in the Ocean
This video from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History explains ocean currents.

Lesson 4- Blackout: Solar and Lunar Eclipses

How Does a Lunar Eclipse Work?
This video from NASA explains lunar eclipses.

What Is an Eclipse?
This article from NASA discusses the difference between lunar and solar eclipses.

Lesson 5- Reasons for the Seasons: Why Earth's Tilt Matters

The Change of the Seasons Slideshow
This NASA slideshow features views of changing seasons across the globe as seen by NASA satellites orbiting Earth as well as informational text.

Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE)
This article from NASA states how solar radiation affects climate change.

Lesson 6- Stellar Proportions: Modeling the Solar System

Galileo’s Observations
After reading “Astronomy: Looking Back” on page 114, learn more about Galileo Galilei and his observations in this interactive feature.

Solar System Comparison Chart
Choose two planets, asteroids, moons, or comets and view a chart comparing many features.

Sizing Up the Universe
Online interactive that helps students understand the size of planets in the galaxy.

Lesson 7-Gravity: Bending Space-Time

Cosmonauts perform external repairs on space station

Watch a recording of cosmonauts in space

First moon landing 1969

Watch a recording of the first moon landing

Exploration Activity: Jupiter and Its Moons

Jupiter Articles
Read about the latest news and articles relating to Jupiter.

Pioneer 11 Animation and Archive Footage
This video shows actual footage of Pioneer’s launch as well as animation of the journey.

Lesson 7-Gravity: Bending Space-Time

Our World: Gravity in Space
This video from NASA describes gravity in Space.

Was Albert Einstein a Space Alien?
Albert Einstein solved questions many other scientists had about the physical world. What set him apart?

Gravity Force Lab
The online Gravity Force Lab allows you to explore the relationship between distance, gravitational force, and mass.

Lesson 8- Keeping it Together: Gravity's Role in the Universe

Orbital Mechanics
NASA provides informational text about Kepler’s laws, Newton’s laws, and Einstein’s theories.

The Story of the Universe
NASA summarizes the story with a timeline of the big bang theory.

Lesson 9- Geologists in Space: Searching for Water on Mars

Mars Exploration News
Check out NASA’s most recent news about Mars.

Mars Lectures
Scientists from the National Air and Space Museum share information about Mars and efforts to explore it.

Lesson 10-The Challenges of Space Exploration

Fifty Years of Human Space Flight
The National Air and Space Museum’s online exhibition detailing human space exploration that began in 1961.

Living in Space
NASA’s website with information on what it is like to live in Space.

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