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Earth, our home planet, is the only planet in our solar system known to harbor life - life that is incredibly diverse. All the things we need to survive exist under a thin layer of atmosphere that separates us from the cold, airless void of space.

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  Explore Earth in 3D Videos Activities

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Alka-Seltzer Rocket: How to Build Your Own Rocket
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth

Short Description: Building this rocket will help students understand how real rockets propel themselves into space.


An Organism Based Upon Arsenic Not Phosphorus!
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: NASA researchers exploring extremophile bacteria in Mono Lake, California claimed to have discovered a new strain of bacterium GFAJ-1 in the Gammaproteobacteria group, which not only feeds on the poisonous element arsenic, but incorporates this element in its DNA as a replacement for normal phosphorus


Cake Batter Lava
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: To understand some of the geological processes and the structures that form as lava flows across planetary landscapes by using cake batter as an analog for lava.


Close Encounters of the Asteroid Kind!
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Asteroids
Mission: DSN (Our Solar System)

Short Description: The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., discovered two small asteroids on the morning of Sunday, September 5, 2010 during a routine monitoring of the skies.


Dance of the Moon and Oceans
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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. They also consider what the Earth's tides might have been like if there were no moon.


Desert RATS
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars, Earth's Moon

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, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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.


Does the Moon Rotate?
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: Make a three-dimensional model of the Earth and Moon. Using the Sun's light. discover that the Moon does rotate, in the same amount of time it takes to make one orbit.


Earth-Moon Activity
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: This activity helps students understand the size of and distance between Earth and the Moon. Students work in pairs using different-sized spherical objects to represent Earth and the Moon. They use the diameter of the objects to establish this scale.


Exploring Lunar Phases with a Daytime Moon
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: This activity creates a model with the real Moon and Sun in the sky to help participants discover the real reason for the lunar phases.


Geologic Landforms Seen on Aerial Photos
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: The objective of this exercise is to introduce students to landforms produced by the four major geologic processes using aerial photographs.


Globe Visualization - Atmosphere Unit
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: Atmospheric conditions can have an important impact on the types of plants and animals that can live in a particular area as well as soil formation. The atmospheric measurements collected by GLOBE students are important to scientists studying weather, climate, land cover, phenology, ecology, biology, hydrology and soil.


Globe Visualization - Soil Unit
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: Students and scientists investigate soils through the collection of data using measurement protocols and using instruments that meet certain specifications in order to ensure that data are comparable.


Goldilocks and the Three Planets
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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.


Golf Ball Phases and Embroidery Hoop Eclipses
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: In the first half, students explore the dynamics of lunar phases to develop an understanding of the relative positions of our Moon, Earth, and Sun that cause the phases of the Moon as viewed from Earth. Using a golf ball glowing under the ultraviolet light of a "blacklight" makes it easier to see the actual phase of the Moon.

In the second half, students adjust their orbits of their moons to gain a deeper understanding of eclipses.


Inside Mars -- Puzzling Patterns -- Where Does Volcanism Occur?
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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.


Interstellar Real Estate -- Defining the Habitable Zone
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Earth
Mission: ACE (Our Solar System)

Short Description: What makes Earth the perfect home for life as we know it? Students in this activity explore the orbital characteristics a planetary home needs to support Earth-like life forms.


Magnetic Sensor Measurements with a Graphing Calculator
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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 Student Imaging Project
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Earth, Mars
Mission: Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars)

Short Description: The Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP) is a nationally recognized award winning authentic inquiry-based learning and student-centered education project. Students learn how science works by engaging in science research using data from a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars. Students understand how science really works by actually being a scientist.


Meteorite Compositions: A matter of density
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Meteors & Meteorites
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: Most people have heard about meteorites, and have seen meteors streaking across the night sky. These 'rocks' travel through space at thousands of kilometers per hour and can strike any other object in their way.


Morning Star and Evening Star
Grade Level: K-2
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Venus, Earth
Mission: Akatsuki (Venus), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun), 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: 3-5
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), 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.


Planetary Geology: Impact Cratering
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Earth Science (Earth), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: Geologists studying impact craters have combined measurements of craters on the Earth, moon, and planets with laboratory experiments to develop approximate relations between the depth of a crater (d), its diameter (CD), and the diameter of the impacting body that produced the crater (ID). To explore these relations:

  • Use the data for Arizona's Meteor Crater shown in the class handout to estimate d/CD.
  • With that result and the laboratory observation d/ID ~ 7 develop a relation between the diameter of a crater and the diameter of the impacting body.
  • Why does any single such relation for all craters serve as only an approximation?
  • Use the result to estimate the size of the impactor that produced Meteor Crater and compare it to the estimates for the dimensions given in the class handout.


Plasma Wars
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Earth
Mission: Genesis (Our Solar System)
Short Description: Students use iron powder to model the solar wind. 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.


Space Weather Action Center
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
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.


Summit Up: Comparing Volcanoes on Mars and Earth
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Earth Science (Earth), Spirit/Opportunity (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: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, 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 Planets -- Not Too Hot or Cold
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun), Spitzer (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Once you have discovered a planet, you need to figure out whether liquid water might be present. In our solar system, Mercury and Venus are so close to the sun that water cannot remain in liquid form. It vaporizes! For planets beyond Mars, the sun is so far away that water will turn to ice. Only in what astronomers call the Habitable Zone will a planet have a chance for being at the right temperature for liquid water to exist in large quantities on its surface!


The Goldilocks Principle: A Model of Atmospheric Gases
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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 Hunt for Micrometeorites
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Earth, Meteors & Meteorites

Short Description: In this activity, students collect and identify micrometeorites from space.


The Orbit Simulator
Grade Level: 3-5
Solar System Body: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Comets
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.

NGSS Connections:


The Penny Moon and Quarter Earth
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: The students will use a penny and a quarter to model the Moon's rotation on its axis and revolution around the Earth, and demonstrate that the Moon keeps the same face toward the Earth


The Transit of Mercury
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun), Mariner 10 (Mercury), MESSENGER (Mercury)

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.


The Water Cycle - Now You See It, Now You Don't
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

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


Unveiling Titan's Surface
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Titan
Mission: Cassini (Saturn)

Short Description: Students will make measurements of topographic features and to draw maps based on these data. This will be done in a way that is analogous to making radar measurements of topography through vegetation (on Earth) or through clouds (on Venus, Titan and Earth).


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.


Volcanoes are a Blast: Working with Simple Equations
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Asteroids, Earth's Moon, Enceladus
Mission: ARM (Asteroids), 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?
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Earth
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 Makes Day and Night?
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), 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?
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

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


What's the Difference?
Grade Level: 6-8, 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.


Why Do Eclipses Happen? What Is an Eclipse?
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: Using simple materials, participants create 3D models of the Earth, Moon and Sun and demonstrate solar and lunar eclipses.

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Alka-Seltzer Rocket: How to Build Your Own Rocket
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth

Short Description: Building this rocket will help students understand how real rockets propel themselves into space.


An Organism Based Upon Arsenic Not Phosphorus!
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: NASA researchers exploring extremophile bacteria in Mono Lake, California claimed to have discovered a new strain of bacterium GFAJ-1 in the Gammaproteobacteria group, which not only feeds on the poisonous element arsenic, but incorporates this element in its DNA as a replacement for normal phosphorus


Cake Batter Lava
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: To understand some of the geological processes and the structures that form as lava flows across planetary landscapes by using cake batter as an analog for lava.


Close Encounters of the Asteroid Kind!
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Asteroids
Mission: DSN (Our Solar System)

Short Description: The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., discovered two small asteroids on the morning of Sunday, September 5, 2010 during a routine monitoring of the skies.


Dance of the Moon and Oceans
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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. They also consider what the Earth's tides might have been like if there were no moon.


Desert RATS
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars, Earth's Moon

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, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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.


Does the Moon Rotate?
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: Make a three-dimensional model of the Earth and Moon. Using the Sun's light. discover that the Moon does rotate, in the same amount of time it takes to make one orbit.


Earth-Moon Activity
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: This activity helps students understand the size of and distance between Earth and the Moon. Students work in pairs using different-sized spherical objects to represent Earth and the Moon. They use the diameter of the objects to establish this scale.


Exploring Lunar Phases with a Daytime Moon
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: This activity creates a model with the real Moon and Sun in the sky to help participants discover the real reason for the lunar phases.


Geologic Landforms Seen on Aerial Photos
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: The objective of this exercise is to introduce students to landforms produced by the four major geologic processes using aerial photographs.


Globe Visualization - Atmosphere Unit
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: Atmospheric conditions can have an important impact on the types of plants and animals that can live in a particular area as well as soil formation. The atmospheric measurements collected by GLOBE students are important to scientists studying weather, climate, land cover, phenology, ecology, biology, hydrology and soil.


Globe Visualization - Soil Unit
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

Short Description: Students and scientists investigate soils through the collection of data using measurement protocols and using instruments that meet certain specifications in order to ensure that data are comparable.


Goldilocks and the Three Planets
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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.


Golf Ball Phases and Embroidery Hoop Eclipses
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: In the first half, students explore the dynamics of lunar phases to develop an understanding of the relative positions of our Moon, Earth, and Sun that cause the phases of the Moon as viewed from Earth. Using a golf ball glowing under the ultraviolet light of a "blacklight" makes it easier to see the actual phase of the Moon.

In the second half, students adjust their orbits of their moons to gain a deeper understanding of eclipses.


Inside Mars -- Puzzling Patterns -- Where Does Volcanism Occur?
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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.


Interstellar Real Estate -- Defining the Habitable Zone
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Earth
Mission: ACE (Our Solar System)

Short Description: What makes Earth the perfect home for life as we know it? Students in this activity explore the orbital characteristics a planetary home needs to support Earth-like life forms.


Magnetic Sensor Measurements with a Graphing Calculator
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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 Student Imaging Project
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Earth, Mars
Mission: Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars)

Short Description: The Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP) is a nationally recognized award winning authentic inquiry-based learning and student-centered education project. Students learn how science works by engaging in science research using data from a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars. Students understand how science really works by actually being a scientist.


Meteorite Compositions: A matter of density
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Meteors & Meteorites
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: Most people have heard about meteorites, and have seen meteors streaking across the night sky. These 'rocks' travel through space at thousands of kilometers per hour and can strike any other object in their way.


Morning Star and Evening Star
Grade Level: K-2
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Venus, Earth
Mission: Akatsuki (Venus), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun), 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: 3-5
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), 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.


Planetary Geology: Impact Cratering
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Earth Science (Earth), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars), Venus Express (Venus)

Short Description: Geologists studying impact craters have combined measurements of craters on the Earth, moon, and planets with laboratory experiments to develop approximate relations between the depth of a crater (d), its diameter (CD), and the diameter of the impacting body that produced the crater (ID). To explore these relations:

  • Use the data for Arizona's Meteor Crater shown in the class handout to estimate d/CD.
  • With that result and the laboratory observation d/ID ~ 7 develop a relation between the diameter of a crater and the diameter of the impacting body.
  • Why does any single such relation for all craters serve as only an approximation?
  • Use the result to estimate the size of the impactor that produced Meteor Crater and compare it to the estimates for the dimensions given in the class handout.


Plasma Wars
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Earth
Mission: Genesis (Our Solar System)
Short Description: Students use iron powder to model the solar wind. 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.


Space Weather Action Center
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: More Than an Hour
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.


Summit Up: Comparing Volcanoes on Mars and Earth
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Mars
Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey (Mars), Earth Science (Earth), Spirit/Opportunity (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: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, 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 Planets -- Not Too Hot or Cold
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun), Spitzer (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Once you have discovered a planet, you need to figure out whether liquid water might be present. In our solar system, Mercury and Venus are so close to the sun that water cannot remain in liquid form. It vaporizes! For planets beyond Mars, the sun is so far away that water will turn to ice. Only in what astronomers call the Habitable Zone will a planet have a chance for being at the right temperature for liquid water to exist in large quantities on its surface!


The Goldilocks Principle: A Model of Atmospheric Gases
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
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 Hunt for Micrometeorites
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Earth, Meteors & Meteorites

Short Description: In this activity, students collect and identify micrometeorites from space.


The Orbit Simulator
Grade Level: 3-5
Solar System Body: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Comets
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.

NGSS Connections:


The Penny Moon and Quarter Earth
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: The students will use a penny and a quarter to model the Moon's rotation on its axis and revolution around the Earth, and demonstrate that the Moon keeps the same face toward the Earth


The Transit of Mercury
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun), Mariner 10 (Mercury), MESSENGER (Mercury)

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.


The Water Cycle - Now You See It, Now You Don't
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth)

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


Unveiling Titan's Surface
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Venus, Earth, Titan
Mission: Cassini (Saturn)

Short Description: Students will make measurements of topographic features and to draw maps based on these data. This will be done in a way that is analogous to making radar measurements of topography through vegetation (on Earth) or through clouds (on Venus, Titan and Earth).


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.


Volcanoes are a Blast: Working with Simple Equations
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Earth, Asteroids, Earth's Moon, Enceladus
Mission: ARM (Asteroids), 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?
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Earth
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 Makes Day and Night?
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), 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?
Grade Level: K-2, 3-5
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

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


What's the Difference?
Grade Level: 6-8, 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.


Why Do Eclipses Happen? What Is an Eclipse?
Grade Level: 3-5, 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Earth, Earth's Moon
Mission: Apollo (Earth's Moon), Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun)

Short Description: Using simple materials, participants create 3D models of the Earth, Moon and Sun and demonstrate solar and lunar eclipses.

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