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Lesson Plans

Color of Stars

Students observe colors in the flame of a burning candle to explore connections between matter, light, color, and temperature — basic concepts of matter and energy.They elaborate on these basic concepts in a new context of astronomy and stars. When matter gets hot enough, it emits visible light.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Fine Arts, Science

Properties of Dust

Students carry out a scientific investigation of dust in their classroom, then extend their experience to properties of dust in space.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Super Gelatin

Students measure the angles of refraction of laser light traveling through gelatin, then plot their data to calculate the gelatin’s index of refraction.You may choose from two different "Elaborate" activities:

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Telescope Allocation Committee

This activity acquaints the students with the telescopes and instruments available at an astronomical observatory: McDonald Observatory.Astronomers apply for observing time on research telescopes.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Astro-Madness

In this activity, students learn about the different telescopes and instruments that are available at McDonald Observatory using the "What Are Astronomers Doing" web site.They use this information to assist a group of scientists in deciding which of McDonald Observatory's resources will best suit

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Delta, Delta, Delta

In this experiment, students construct an equilateral triangle using graph paper, pencil, protractor and a ruler.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Hot Air

Students witness light refracting through air everyday.On hot days, "ripples" rise from the ground or roadways. Stars twinkle in the night sky. The Sun looks squashed on the horizon at sunrise and sunset.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Spectroscope

This lesson guides students to build a spectroscope, use it as tool, and interpret their observations by applying concepts of conservation of energy and properties of matter.Students will observe all three kinds of spectra: continuous, emission, and absorption.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Mirror, Mirror

In this activity, students test the Law of Reflection based on experimental evidence.However, the back-silvered glass mirrors present a twist.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

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.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Rock Cycle

This activity combines the concept of Earth’s rock cycle with the characteristics of other planets in the solar system. After learning about Earth’s rock cycle and the basic characteristics of objects in the solar system, students can consider how to extend this concept to other objects.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science

Reflective Solar Cooker

This reflective solar cooker uses the Sun's energy to cook marshmallows. The target cooking area is the space where the light concentration is greatest. Never look directly at the Sun! It could damage your eyes. Don't allow the cooker to reflect sunlight into your eyes.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Career STEM, Math, Science

Sunspots

The Sun is a huge sphere of gas. The visible layer of the Sun, which we view as the surface, is the photosphere. Its temperature is about 6,200 degrees Celsius (10,340 degrees Fahrenheit). Above the surface are the chromosphere and corona.

Grade Level:
Grades 9-12 (Ages 14-17)
Subject Areas:
Physics, Science

The Milky Way

Stretching across the dark night sky, not easily visible when the Moon is in the sky, is a faint irregular glowing strip of light. For thousands of years peoples of various cultures tried to explain what they saw, sometimes using stories. Here are some examples:

Grade Level:
Grades 9-12 (Ages 14-17)
Subject Areas:
Fine Arts, Social Studies

Scale Models

Earth and the MoonWithout being informed of the expected product, the students will make a Play-doh model of the Earth-Moon system, scaled to size and distance.

Grade Level:
Grades 6-8 (Ages 11-13)
Subject Areas:
Science