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Cake Batter Lava
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: Students use cake batter to understand how different lavas flow and the structures that are created.


Cosmic Chemistry: Planetary Diversity
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroids, Meteors & Meteorites, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Dwarf Planets
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets), InSight (Mars)

Short Description: The goal of this module is to acquaint students with the planets of the solar system and some current models for their origin and evolution. During the explorations of the Cosmic Chemistry: Planetary Diversity module, students will make decisions concerning possible patterns or groupings of the physical and chemical compositions of internal structures and atmospheres of planets. Through classroom activities, they will be encouraged to examine some contemporary models proposed to explain the origin and evolution of the planets. In the final assessment activity students will use these experiences to predict the properties of the the missing planet that could have formed in the asteroid belt.


Dance of the Moon and Oceans
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth, Earth's Moon

Short Description: Students discover how the moon's gravitational pull causes the level of the ocean to rise and fall twice a day along most coastlines through this kinesthetic activity, and consider what the Earth's tides might have been like if there were no moon.


Desert RATS Teacher Site Selection
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Our Solar System

Short Description: Students research and present an exploration mission timeline proposal that utilizes the scientific process to meet science objectives and mission parameters for the field site. The goal is for students to create a 3-day mission timeline of activities for exploration.


Discovering Plate Boundaries
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: This data-rich exercise to help students discover the processes that occur at plate tectonic boundaries is built around four global data maps: 1) Earthquake location and depth, 2) Location of recent volcanic activity, 3) Seafloor Age, and 4) Topography and Bathymetry. Alternative versions of the activity can concentrate on examining just the volcanic data and comparing the locations of volcanoes composed primarily of basalt to those of andesite and rhyolite, relative to plate boundaries.


Exploring Meteorite Mysteries: Lesson 10-Building Blocks of Planets
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Asteroids, Meteors & Meteorites

Short Description: In Activity A students will observe and describe chondrite meteorites. In Activity B they will experiment with balloons and static electricity to illustrate the theories about how dust particles collected into larger clusters. In Activity C students will manipulate magnetic marbles and steel balls to dramatically illustrate the accretion of chondritic material into larger bodies like planets and asteroids.


Exploring Origins
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Sun
Mission: Genesis (Our Solar System)

Short Description: The goal of Exploring Origins is to help students understand the cumulative nature of scientific knowledge and technological advancements and to understand the theoretical basis for the Genesis mission. By exploring ideas about the origins of the solar system held by various cultures throughout the ages, students will gain an understanding that the Genesis mission is providing data to answer age-old questions. This activity is geared towards grades 4 and up.


Flexing Muscles and Moons
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Europa
Mission: Galileo (Jupiter), Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Students measure the effect of gravitational flexing (which keeps Io and Europa's interior warm) by taking the temperature of some flexible rubber balls. They also calculate the force of gravity.


Goldilocks and the Three Planets
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Akatsuki (Venus), MAVEN (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: Students determine what some of Earth, Venus and Mars' atmosphere is composed of and then mathematically compare the amount of the greenhouse gas, CO2, on the planets Venus, Earth and Mars in order to determine which has the most.


Heavyweight Champion: Jupiter and The Pull of the Planets Unit
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Solar System Body: Jupiter
Mission: Juno (Jupiter)

Short Description: The students explore gravity and its relationship to weight by weighing themselves on scales modified to represent weights on other worlds, and compare the features of different planets to determine which characteristics cause a planet to have more or less gravity.


How Much Would You Weigh on Distant Planets
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo 11 (Earth's Moon), Apollo 12 (Earth's Moon), Apollo 14 (Earth's Moon), Apollo 15 (Earth's Moon), Apollo 17 (Earth's Moon), Apollo (Earth's Moon)

Short Description: Students view Web movies of astronauts on the moon and discuss what they can learn about one's lunar weight; a calculator is provided to get their weight on other planets; a discussion of the causes of weight and gravity is then suggested with different hypotheses.


In the Footsteps of Galileo: Observing the Moons of Jupiter
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Jupiter, Europa
Mission: Juno (Jupiter)

Short Description: Students learn about the scientific method and do a simplified version of Galileo's pioneering observations of Jupiter's moons, which similarly supported a new model of our solar system.


Inside Mars -- Puzzling Patterns -- Where Does Volcanism Occur?
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars)

Short Description: Students compare volcano maps of Earth and Mars and identify patterns, similarities and differences.


Jupiter's Family Secrets
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Jupiter
Mission: Galileo (Jupiter), Juno (Jupiter)

Short Description: In this series of brief station activities, students may examine the turbulent weather that creates Jupiter's distinctive banded appearance.


Magnetic Sensor Measurements with a Graphing Calculator
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
Mission: Cassini (Saturn), Earth Science (Earth), InSight (Mars), Juno (Jupiter)

Short Description: This activity uses magnetic field sensors with the "Texas Instrument" Graphing Calculator and CBL to measure and plot magnetic fields. This allows the student to prove that magnetic fields decrease as the negative cube of the distance.


Magnetism and Electromagnetism
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
Mission: Cassini (Saturn), Earth Science (Earth), Juno (Jupiter), MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: In this review of basic magnetism, students map field lines around bar magnets to visualize the magnetic dipole field, and create their own electromagnet using copper wire, battery and a pencil to learn that electric currents create magnetic fields.


Making and Mapping a Volcano
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars)

Short Description: After each of a series of vinegar/baking soda eruptions, students use Play-Doh to mark where the lava flowed. In teams they examine the stratigraphy and map the flows.


Mapping Magnetic Influence
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), SOHO (Comets)

Short Description: This lesson is designed to allow your students to explore magnets and develop an operational definition of a magnet "field" and an operational definition for a magnetic "pole."


Mars Robotics Activities
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Mars
Mission: MSL / Curiosity (Mars)

Short Description: Mars robotics activities provide ideal ways to help students understand the role of engineering and technology in today's world. From looking at personal robots to those we send to other worlds, these activities will help students learn the different elements necessary to design, build and support robotic missions to the Red Planet.


Microgravity in the Classroom
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Our Solar System

Short Description: This activity consists of three demonstrations that create microgravity conditions by freefall.


Mission Design
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Our Solar System
Mission: MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: Mission Design is intended to provide an overarching framework for discussing exploration in general. The module places space exploration in the greater context of the history of human exploration, and allows the students to investigate how scientists and engineers today plan missions to study worlds in the solar system and extend their exploration even farther in the Universe.


Morning Star and Evening Star
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Solar System Body: Venus
Mission: Akatsuki (Venus), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: Students participate in a kinesthetic model that demonstrates that Venus is visible in the evening and morning sky.


Observing Where the Sun Sets
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Sun
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: This activity is for students to do at home. When they complete it, they will have created a horizon sun calendar much like ones that were used in many Native American tribes.


On the Moon
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Earth's Moon
Mission: Lunar Recon Orbiter (Earth's Moon)

Short Description: This guide has six activities that bring engineering and NASA's moon missions to life. Some are applicable for elementary-aged students, and one is for high school students, but most are targeted for middle school students.


Paper Plate Education: Transit Frequency
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Sun, Venus
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: This activity by Paper Plate Education models why Venus' transits come in pairs that are eight years apart, followed alternately by spans of 121.5 years and 105.5 years.


Plasma Wars
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Earth
Mission: Genesis (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Students use iron powder to model the solar wind, moving under pressure created by a pipette, encountering and interacting with an enclosed magnetic field. The student text introduces the idea of planetary diversity not only in the shape, size, and strength of the planetary magnetospheres, but also in the types and sources of the high-energy charged particles that occupy them.


Reading, Writing and Rings
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Solar System Body: Saturn
Mission: Cassini (Saturn)

Short Description: These activities blend the excitement of space exploration with reading and writing. Activities are available for Grades 1-2 and Grades 3-4.


Space Math: Ice on Mercury?
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Mercury
Mission: MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: Since the 1990's, radio astronomers have mapped Mercury. An outstanding curiosity is that in the polar regions, some craters appear to have "anomalous reflectivity" in the shadowed areas of these craters. One interpretation is that this is caused by sub-surface ice


Space Math: LRO Makes a Temperature Map of the Lunar South Pole
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Earth's Moon
Mission: Lunar Recon Orbiter (Earth's Moon)

Short Description: Students use the published LRO temperature map to study the scale of the south polar region, the sizes of its craters and estimate the volume of water-ice that may be present in Shackleton Crater.


Space Weather Action Center
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: Imagine being able to monitor the progress of an entire solar storm from the time it erupts from our Sun until it sweeps past our small planet effecting enormous changes in our magnetic field. Now imagine being able to do all of this from your Space Weather Action Center (S.W.A.C.)! By following the basic steps in the Instructional Guide your class will soon be on its way to accessing, analyzing and recording NASA satellite and observatory data.


SpaceMath: Planet Kepler-10b: A Matter of Gravity
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Beyond Our Solar System

Short Description: Students use the measured properties of the Earth-like planet Kepler 10b such as its size and density, and by solving Newton's formula for gravity, they determine the weight of a 100 kilogram human standing on the planet's surface.


SpaceMath: The Transit of Mercury
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Earth
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: As seen from Earth, the planet Mercury occasionally passes across the face of the sun; an event that astronomers call a transit. From images taken by the Hinode satellite, students will create a model of the solar disk to the same scale as the image, and calculate the distance to the sun.


Spinning Does More than Make You Dizzy
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Solar System Body: Our Solar System

Short Description: Students investigate why the planets revolve around the Sun in the same direction and connect their formation to their motions in this simple demonstration.


Strange New Planet
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Mars
Mission: Mariner 04 (Mars), Mariner 06 (Mars), Mariner 07 (Mars), Mariner 09 (Mars), Mars Global Surveyor (Mars), Mars Pathfinder (Mars), Viking 01 (Mars), Viking 02 (Mars)

Short Description: This activity demonstrates how planetary features are discovered through a sequence of observations, from naked eye, to telescopic, to fly-by, orbiting, and sample missions. Students make multi-sensory observations, gather data and simulate spacecraft missions.


Structure and Properties of Matter: Ion Propulsion Module
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Asteroids, Dwarf Planets
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: This module is intended to engage students and the interested public in the propulsion technology that is necessary for Dawn to complete its mission. As students interact with this module, they will gain an understanding of charges and relative charge, momentum and frames of reference, ionization and plasma, how an ion propulsion system works, and they will experiment with designing an ion engine to determine optimal conditions.


Summit Up -- Comparing Volcanos on Mars and Earth
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars)

Short Description: Summit Up is a 20 minute activity in which children make paper models to scale of the tallest volcanic mountains on Earth and Mars and discover a big difference between volcanoes on these two planets.


The Earth-like Planet Gliese 518g
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Solar System Body: Beyond Our Solar System
Mission: Astrophysics (Beyond Our Solar System), Hubble (Beyond Our Solar System), Webb Space Telescope (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Students use data for the Gliese 581 planetary system to draw a scaled model of the locations and sizes of the discovered planets. They also identify the location and span of the Habitable Zone for this planetary system.


The Goldilocks Principle: A Model of Atmospheric Gases
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Akatsuki (Venus), Earth Science (Earth), MAVEN (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: This activity introduces students to the atmospheric differences between the three "sister" planets in a graphic and hands-on way, using jelly beans or cotton balls to model different atmospheric gases. Students will use this understanding later as they begin to appreciate the scope and importance of the greenhouse effect on Earth.


The Orbit Simulator
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Our Solar System
Mission: Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)

Short Description: This simulator lets students explore many aspects of the orbits of planets -- and one comet. This could be a great teaching tool.


The Thousand Yard Model
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Our Solar System
Mission: Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)

Short Description: This is a classic exercise for visualizing just how BIG our solar system really is. Both the relative size and spacing of the planets are demonstrated in this outdoor exercise, using a mere peppercorn to represent the size of the Earth.


The Water Cycle - Now You See It, Now You Don't
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: Elementary students learn about the relationship between temperature and condensation.


Time Lineup
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Dwarf Planets, Comets, Kuiper Belt & Oort Cloud, Earth's Moon
Mission: ARTEMIS (Earth's Moon), Cassini (Saturn), Dawn (Dwarf Planets), Galileo (Jupiter), Hubble (Beyond Our Solar System), InSight (Mars), Juno (Jupiter), LADEE (Earth's Moon), Lunar Recon Orbiter (Earth's Moon), MSL / Curiosity (Mars), MAVEN (Mars), MESSENGER (Mercury), Viking 01 (Mars), Viking 02 (Mars), Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System), WISE (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Students work in groups or as a class to determine the order of events that formed our solar system. This is an excellent activity to begin discussion of events that shaped the solar system and how Earth's geosphere and biosphere have changed -- in an interrelated manner -- through time.


Transit Tracks
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Solar System Body: Beyond Our Solar System
Mission: Astrophysics (Beyond Our Solar System)

Short Description: In this investigation, from the NASA Kepler mission Education and Public Outreach team, students describe a transit and the conditions when a transit may be seen; describe how a planet's size and distance from its star affects the behavior of transits; and interpret graphs of brightness versus time to deduce information about planet-star systems.


Using MY NASA DATA to Determine Volcanic Activity
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: Students use NASA satellite data of optical depth as a tool to determine volcanic activity on Reunion Island during 2000-2001.


Volcanos are a Blast: Working with Simple Equations
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Cassini (Saturn), Earth Science (Earth), Lunar Recon Orbiter (Earth's Moon)

Short Description: Students examine the famous Krakatoa explosion, asteroid impacts on the moon and geysers on Enceladus (a moon of Saturn) using three equations that describe the height of the plume and initial velocity to answer questions about the speed of the debris and terminal height.


What Are We Made Of? The Sun, the Earth, and You
Grade Level: 6-8
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun
Mission: Genesis (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Students learn that elements are the basic building blocks of all things found on Earth and in space including water, the human body, the Earth, the Sun, and the planets. By counting elements extracted from a simulated sample, students explore how the extraction of atoms from the Genesis samples help scientists have a better understanding of the abundances of elements from the solar wind. This hands-on experience helps students discover that the elemental abundances from the Sun can be used as a baseline to compare with the diverse bodies of our solar system.


What is a Planet?
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Asteroids, Dwarf Planets, Comets, Kuiper Belt & Oort Cloud, Pluto
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets), New Horizons (Dwarf Planets)

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."


What Makes Day and Night? The Earth's Rotation
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: In this demonstration of day and night, students learn kinesthetically as they take on the role of the Earth orbiting the rotating sun.


What Makes Shadows? Observing and Drawing Shadows
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: Students learn about shadows as they observe and draw the shadow of a classmate.


What's the Difference?
Grade Level: 9-12
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: InSight (Mars), MAVEN (Mars)

Short Description: This is a free multimedia software application that facilitates scientific analysis by allowing virtually any pictures, graphics, animations, and movies to be compared side by side. The solar system dataset contains comparisons of the planets and major moons within our solar system. Users can upload graphical, animated, interactive, textual, and audio-formatted content into the categories and attributes grid and then supplement their data with customized multiple choice and summary assessment tests.

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Last Updated: 21 Oct 2011