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Planets, like people, grow and change over time: Evolving Worlds
Classrooms


Planetary evolution is a thought-provoking topic that can be used as a "big question" to unite a variety of other topics such as volcanism and plate tectonics, atmosphere, and the origins of life. Tackling this complex topic requires that students already have some familiarity with the characteristics of planets, and is best done with older students who have already been introduced to plate tectonics and magnetism; it is not an appropriate topic for most elementary classrooms, but does lend itself to the rigor and curiosity of high school and undergraduate classes.

Teachers may want to also check out the related resources and activities from YSS topics Volcanism! and Magnetospheres.

In addition to the activities, remember to check out Educational Resources for video, podcasts and more! Be sure to submit photographs, artwork, music, or words of students enjoying these activities to Share Your Stories.

Activities

Grades 5-8
These grade levels can use existing topics within their curriculum (such as plate tectonics, heat transfer and density) to build a cohesive picture of the solar system and how planets may change over time. (Science Education Standards)

Activity Description
Cooling Planets In this activity, students take temperature readings from large and small containers of hot water, and graph the measurements to determine how volume affects cooling. They use this information to interpret the cooling histories of the different sizes of the inner, rocky planets of our inner solar system.
Crash Landing! This activity examines the conditions necessary to support on-going life on a planet. After considering the conditions needed for life as we know it, students select the most habitable planet, in a fictitious planetary system, on which to crash land.
Discovering Plate Boundaries This is an excellent inquiry based activity through which students in upper elementary through college can make observations about the patterns of features on Earth's surface -- and draw conclusions about the movements of Earth's tectonic plates.
Time Lineup 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.
Differentiation Demonstration: Moon Students observe a model of planetary differentiation, the organization of planetary interiors into layers of different densities. Materials of different densities are mixed in a bottle and allowed to separate into layers. The simple model illustrates how the Moon's interior became organized into a distinct core, mantle and outer crust from the debris of the Giant Impact.


Grades 9-14
Students in these grades can apply their understanding of the solar system and of physics to this topic even more readily than middle school students; teachers may find that students are enthused by this cutting-edge area of research. Be sure to check out the Educational Resources section this month, for additional powerpoints, videos and other materials that can enrich the content. (Science Education Standards)

Activity Description
Discovering Plate Boundaries Excellent inquiry based activity through which students in upper elementary through college can make observations about the patterns of features on Earth's surface -- and draw conclusions about Earth's tectonic plates.
Time Lineup 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.
Cosmic Chemistry: Planetary Diversity 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. 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.
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Last Updated: 12 Sep 2014