Planet Tours

Planning to take a vacation soon? Visit Phobos! Small and cozy, Phobos orbits the fourth planet from the Sun in less than eight hours. From your observation deck on Phobos, you will have a superb view of Mars. You will see its mountains, polar ice caps, and the largest volcano in the solar system. Call your cosmic travel agent today!

Try this creative activity to help your students explore the solar system in an imaginative manner.

Preparation

Use StarDate or Universo CDs or printed materials such as StarDate Guide to the Solar System or the StarDate/Universo websites to find information about solar system objects. As an aid, provide some examples of real travel brochures or websites with travel ads available for students to preview. For secondary classrooms, a good resource is Active Physics: Sports by Arthur Eisenkraft (ISBN 1-891629-04-02).

Activity

Break the class into teams that will research one planetary body (if you have a large number of teams, you can include some of the moons of the solar system, or comets and asteroids). The students use the information they collect to create travel posters, brochures, or television or radio commercials for their object.

Each project should include real facts about the solar system object, but may use “far-out” features to form the basis of unusual recreation opportunities. When everyone is finished, each team presents its product to the rest of the class.

Assessment

Develop a grading rubric for different grades, keeping in mind the standards. In addition to “facts” about solar system objects, the rubric should ascertain whether students use physical data to make comparisons. Making comparisons is the key to learning science in this activity. Some teachers may be comfortable with allowing the students to design the rubric for their class after they have started the project; others may want to pass the rubric out at the beginning of the assignment. One teacher had students make PowerPoint presentations and gave extra credit for working some mythology and images into the presentation.

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*TEKS are Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. For more information, visit http://www.tea.state.tx.us/teks/.

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