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Space Exploration Lesson Plans (12 results)

Space exploration is an exciting and wide-ranging area. Getting into space (and back down) is hard, involving rockets and launch vehicles, satellites, spacecraft, re-entry systems, landers and rovers, robots, and orbital mechanics, not to mention hypothetical technologies like space elevators and artificial gravity. To survive and thrive in space, we must understand many additional issues such as human performance in space, the space economy, and the science of astronomical bodies.

Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-8th
The egg drop project is a time-honored tradition in many science classrooms. Students build a device to protect an egg and prevent it from breaking when dropped. This project typically relates to lessons about Newton's laws of motion or potential and kinetic energy. However, it is also a great way for students to practice the engineering design process, and learn about the importance of design iteration and learning from failure. Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-8th
Learn about real space flight and Newton's laws of motion with this fun lesson! This new twist on a classic project lets your students build a multi-stage balloon rocket that they can launch across the classroom. Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-PS2-2. Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.
  • MS-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-8th
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Do you need a fun, easy way to teach your students about the scientific method? Try this lesson that uses rockets made from nothing but paper, tape, and straws. An elementary school version of this lesson plan is also available. Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-Science Practices.
Lesson Plan Grade: 3rd-5th
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This lesson will introduce your students to the scientific method using a fun, hands-on activity. A middle school version of this lesson plan is also available. Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • 3-5—Science Practices.
Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-8th
This hands-on science lesson will help your students get a more accurate view of the solar system by making a scale model. They will do the calculations, make model planets, and find out where to place them so their model reflects reality. Seeing the relative size of the eight planets and their distance from the Sun displayed before them will allow your students to grasp the structure and vastness of the solar system. Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-ESS1-3. Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.
Lesson Plan Grade: 3rd
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Forces, which we might instinctively describe as pushes and pulls, are acting on us at all times, but we cannot always see them. This hands-on lesson offers a fun opportunity to explore "invisible" forces like gravity and air resistance. Students will build parachutes and investigate how they allow skydivers to safely land. Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • 3-PS2-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.
Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-8th
Space exploration poses many challenges. In this lesson, students will explore how flying a helicopter on Mars is different from flying a helicopter on Earth due to the difference in the helicopter's weight on Mars and the thin Martian atmosphere. Students will follow the engineering design process to design and build paper helicopters that might be able to fly on Mars. Before testing their different helicopter designs, students will revisit the concept of gravity, and apply their knowledge to… Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-PS2-4. Construct and present arguments using evidence to support the claim that gravitational interactions are attractive and depend on the masses of interacting objects.
  • MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-8th
Students explore orbit transfers and, specifically, Hohmann transfers. They investigate the orbits of Earth and Mars by using cardboard and string. Students learn about the planets' orbits around the sun, and about a transfer orbit from one planet to the other. After the activity, students will know exactly what is meant by a delta-v maneuver!Engineering Connection Aerospace engineers must be creative when planning the best routes and methods to send a spacecraft from… Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-ESS1-2. Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
Lesson Plan Grade: 3rd-5th
Students are introduced to the engineering challenges involved with interplanetary space travel. In particular, they learn about the gravity assist or "slingshot" maneuver often used by engineers to send spacecraft to the outer planets. Using magnets and ball bearings to simulate a planetary flyby, students investigate what factors influence the deflection angle of a gravity assist maneuver. Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • 3-PS2-2. Make observations and/or measurements of an object's motion to provide evidence that a pattern can be used to predict future motion. (Grade 3)
  • 4-PS3-1. Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object. (Grade 4)
Lesson Plan Grade: 6th-8th
Students use water balloons and a length of string to understand how the force of gravity between two objects and the velocity of a spacecraft can balance to form an orbit. They see that when the velocity becomes too great for gravity to hold the spacecraft in orbit, the object escapes the orbit and travels further away from the planet.Engineering Connection Engineers and scientists make amazingly precise calculations so that a spacecraft's journey is timed exactly to… Read more
NGSS Performance Expectations:
  • MS-ESS1-2. Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
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