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Short Description: Students learn about the characteristics of planets, comets, asteroids, and trans-Neptunian objects through a classification activity. Students can then apply what they have learned by participating in a formal debate about a solar system object discovered by the New Horizons spacecraft and by defining the term "planet."
Investigating Our Planetary Family Tree,
Our Evolving Understanding of Our Solar System
Grade Level: 9-12
Kuiper Belt & Oort Cloud,
Dawn (Dwarf Planets),
New Horizons (Dwarf Planets)
Science Education Standards: Benchmarks
By the end of 8th grade, students should know that: Nine planets of very different size, composition, and surface features move around the Sun in nearly circular orbits. Some planets have a variety of moons and even flat rings of rock and ice particles orbiting around them. Some of these planets and moons show evidence of geologic activity. The Earth is orbited by one moon, many artificial satellites, and debris. 4A/M3
By the end of 12th grade, students should know that: As the Earth and other planets formed, the heavier elements fell to their centers. On planets close to the Sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), the lightest elements were mostly blown or boiled away by radiation from the newly formed Sun; on the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) the lighter elements still surround them as deep atmospheres of gas or as frozen solid layers. 4A/H5** (SFAA)
National Science Education Standards
Grades 5-8: EARTH IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM:
The Earth is the third planet from the Sun in a system that includes the Moon, the Sun, eight other planets and their moons, and smaller objects, such as asteroids and comets.
Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory