The 8 lessons of the Universe unit encourage students to reflect on the subject and carry out activities from observing the night sky to analyzing the most recent images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
In the two first lessons, students study the universe while referring to a poster showing a starry sky, analyzing the celestial bodies visible to the unaided eye. Then, the movements of the stars throughout the hours of a night and during the days of a year are simulated. This first exposition intends to explain the observational procedures carried out by an ancient astronomer trying to discern the regularity in the sky’s movement.
Lessons 3 and 4 are the first to deal with technology. In these lessons, besides learning how a rocket works, students design, build, and launch short and long-range rockets. These activities provide information for reflecting on gravitational attraction and Newton’s Third Law, the principle that action equals reaction.
Rockets played a major role in launching space probes for collecting detailed data on all planets. In Lessons 5 and 6, students begin to analyze the physical characteristics of the planets as well as their movements in the universe. Using overlays to compare relative position, students can observe the result of planetary movements. Then students build a 3-D model of our Solar System.
In the final two lessons, students discuss various concepts regarding the stars. They are introduced to parallax, the position change scientists use to measure a star’s distance from Earth. Students will simulate this phenomenon in a hands-on experiment. Also, students investigate the life cycle stages of a star as well as its composition. They learn about spectroscopy, a technique for determining the chemical composition of stars. Students analyze the spectra from various lamps, recognizing that chemical differences and temperature cause different spectra.