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Asteroids: Education
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Asteroid Activities
The lessons below are teacher-favorite lessons focused on asteroids. For more search options or to search by other science target, missions and other criteria, visit our Fast Lesson Finder. You can also search by curriculum standards on our popular Curriculum Standards Quilts.


Asteroids Lessons:

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Active Accretion
Topic: Formation of the Solar System
Body: Our Solar System, Asteroids, Meteors & Meteorites
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: Students act as dust grains that come together to model early planet formation by the process of accretion in our solar system.


Best of the Solar System
Topic: Investigating Our Planetary Family Tree
Grade Level: 5-8
Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Dwarf Planets, Comets, Kuiper Belt & Oort Cloud, Earth's Moon, Europa, Pluto
Mission: Cassini (Saturn), Dawn (Dwarf Planets), Galileo (Jupiter), Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)

Short Description: This activity introduces students to planetary research. Using some of the most famous and interesting images of the solar system, students learn to focus on details by studying uncaptioned images. Next students increase their knowledge of the planets and their features by comparing their observations to those of real researchers. Students organize their findings to infer a key difference between inner and outer planets.


Changes Inside Planets (Differentiation and Breakup)
Topic: Formation of the Solar System
Grade Level: 5-8
Body: Our Solar System, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroids, Meteors & Meteorites
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: Students conduct experiments to model the separation of light and heavy materials within a planetary body using gelatin. In a second activity, students model the break-up of a differentiated body using frozen hard-boiled eggs.


Cosmic Chemistry: Planetary Diversity
Topic: Evolving Worlds: Planets, Like People, Grow and Change Over Time, Formation of the Solar System
Grade Level: 9-12
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.


Dunking the Planets
Topic: Investigating Our Planetary Family Tree
Grade Level: K-4
Body: Our Solar System, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Dwarf Planets
Mission: Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)

Short Description: In this 30-minute demonstration, children ages 9-13 compare the relative sizes and masses of scale models of the planets as represented by fruits and other foods. The children dunk the "planets" in water to highlight the fact that even a large, massive planet -- such as Saturn -- can have low density. They discuss how a planet's density is related to whether it is mainly made up of rock or gas.


Exploring Ice in the Solar System
Topic: Ice in the Solar System, Water in the Solar System
Grade Level: K-4, 5-8
Body: Our Solar System, Mercury, Earth, Mars, Asteroids, Dwarf Planets, Comets, Kuiper Belt & Oort Cloud, Earth's Moon, Europa, Pluto, Ceres
Mission: Lunar Recon Orbiter (Earth's Moon), Mars Recon Orbiter (Mars), MESSENGER (Mercury), New Horizons (Dwarf Planets), Rosetta (Comets)

Short Description: Examine the importance of water in the form of ice in the solar system. From hands-on experiences with ice, the unit moves on to investigating ice in everyday life, in polar regions on Earth, and throughout the solar system.


Exploring Meteorite Mysteries: Lesson 10-Building Blocks of Planets
Topic: Formation of the Solar System
Grade Level: 5-8
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.


New Horizons: Orbit and Spin
Topic: Formation of the Solar System
Grade Level: K-4
Body: Our Solar System, Asteroids, Dwarf Planets, Pluto
Mission: New Horizons (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: In this kinesthetic activity, students explore the size, distance, orbit, and spin of the Sun, Moon and Earth.


Structure and Properties of Matter: Ion Propulsion Module
Topic: Far Ranging Robots
Grade Level: 9-12
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.


The Dawn Mission -- Ion Rockets and Spiral Orbits
Topic: Far Ranging Robots, Space Math
Grade Level: 9-12
Body: Asteroids, Dwarf Planets
Mission: Dawn (Dwarf Planets)

Short Description: Students determine the shape of the trajectory taken by a spacecraft using a constant-thrust ion motor using differential and integral calculus for arc lengths.


The Solar Wind Tunnel: A Comet Borrelly Interactive
Topic: Magnetospheres: Planetary Shields
Grade Level: 5-8
Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Dwarf Planets, Comets
Mission: Rosetta (Comets), SOHO (Comets), Wind (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Students compare their observations of the solar wind's interaction with magnetized planets, non-magnetized planets, comets, and asteroids, and record their observations online.


Time Lineup
Topic: Evolving Worlds: Planets, Like People, Grow and Change Over Time
Grade Level: 5-8, 9-12
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.


What is a Planet?
Topic: Investigating Our Planetary Family Tree, Our Evolving Understanding of Our Solar System
Grade Level: 9-12
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."

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Last Updated: 2 Apr 2014