OpenSciEd: 8.4 Earth in Space 1-Class Unit Kit


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Grades 6–8. In Unit 8.4 Earth in Space, Carolina Certified Version*, students work to answer the Unit Driving Question: "How are we connected to the patterns we see in the sky and space?"

Humans have always been driven to notice, record, and understand patterns and to figure out how we fit within much larger systems. Students begin the unit by observing the repeating biannual pattern of the Sun setting between buildings in New York City, perfectly aligned along particular streets. They then connect, explore, and try to explain additional patterns in the sky that they and others have observed. Students draw on their own experiences and the stories of family or community members to brainstorm a list of patterns in the sky. They listen to a series of podcasts highlighting indigenous astronomies from around the world that emphasize how patterns in the sky set the rhythms for their lives, their communities, and all life on Earth. These are added to students' growing list of related phenomena (other patterns in the sky that people have observed).

In the first two lesson sets, students develop models for the Earth-Sun and Earth-Sun-Moon systems that explain some of the patterns in the sky that they have identified, including seasons, eclipses, and lunar phases. The end of the second lesson set and start of the third lesson set problematizes a predicted observation from the model they developed that they cannot fully explain. This unexpected observation leaves them wondering why the Moon does not go completely dark during a lunar eclipse and instead turns a dim red color. In the third lesson set, students investigate a series of related phenomena motivated by their questions and ideas for investigations. These include rainbows, sunsets, and other sky and space phenomena related to changes in color and light. In the final lesson set, students explore the remaining questions on their Driving Question Board, related to planets and other objects farther out in space (beyond the stars they can see with the unaided eye). In this lesson set, they explore scale and develop a model of the solar system. In the process, they figure out that gravity is the driving force behind the patterns of motion of these objects and the organization of the solar system. They also come to understand that gravity is the driving force behind the organization of more distant systems (galaxies) that we cannot see with unaided eyes from Earth.

Throughout the unit, students will:

  • Develop and use both physical and conceptual models of objects in space to explain seasonal temperature variation across the globe, lunar phases, lunar eclipses, solar eclipses, and transits of Venus and Mercury.
  • Attend explicitly to the perspective taken by the observer in their systems models and eventually include multiple perspectives at various scales, beginning here on Earth and expanding out to include the solar system and galactic scales.
  • Use simulations to look for patterns of objects over time, including carrying out experiments on how the section of Moon visible at a particular part of a lunar month is related to the Moon's position in relation to Earth and a person on Earth. Students will also use simulations to look for factors that influence the orbits of one object around another.
  • Collect, analyze, and interpret data about objects in the solar system in order to gather evidence that explains the patterns we see in the sky and space with both our unaided eyes and from telescopes and spacecraft, as well as results from a computer simulation of the formation of the solar system.
  • Investigate phenomena and develop a model of light that can account for changes in color and brightness when light interacts with matter. Students will then revise a lunar eclipse model to represent the Earth-Sun-Moon system and that the matter in Earth's atmosphere selectively absorbs and bends light from the Sun to color the Moon red.
  • Obtain information about objects in the sky and space that connect to observations made by other cultures and people throughout history.

This 1-Class Unit Kit includes basic teacher access to instructional materials on, plus the materials needed to teach 1 class of 32 students per day.

Building Toward 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-PS4-2: Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
  • MS-ESS1-1: Develop and use a model of the Earth-Sun-Moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.
  • MS-ESS1-2: Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
  • MS-ESS1-3: Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.

Focal Science and Engineering Practices

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information

The following practices are also key to the sensemaking in the unit:

  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Focal Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS1.A.
  • ESS1.B.
  • PS2.B.
  • PS4.B

Focal Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  • Systems and System Models
  • Cause and Effect

*All enhancements to materials and instruction for this Carolina Certified Version of the unit are approved by OpenSciEd to preserve the integrity of the storyline and the instructional model.


What’s Included:
  •  Unit Technology Pack (basic digital access to teacher's guide and all instructional resources for the teacher)
  •  Batteries, Alkaline, AA
  •  Battery, Alkaline, 9 V
  •  Bowls, Clear Glass, 6" diam
  •  Bulb Sockets
  •  Cutter/Stripper, Wire
  •  Digital Light Meter
  •  Equilateral Prisms, 100 mm
  •  Fiberglass Tape Measures
  •  Flashlight Set, LED (red, green, blue; with batteries)
  •  Flashlights, LED (with battery)
  •  Jars, Hexagon, Glass, with Lids
  •  Light Bulbs, 72-W Eco, Soft White
  •  Pads, Cardboard, 8-1/2 x 11"
  •  Plate Glass Mirrors, 4 x 4"
  •  Power Strips, 3 ft, 6-Outlet, White
  •  Protractors, Plastic
  •  Push Pins
  •  Rulers, Plastic, Metric (12")
  •  Tumblers, Clear Plastic
  •  Bag Ties
  •  Graph Paper
  •  Labels, 1/4", Assorted Colors
  •  Note Pads, Self-Adhesive, Medium
  •  Paper Plates, Heavy-Duty
  •  Pipe Cleaners, Assorted Colors
  •  Rubber Bands, #16
  •  Spheres, Styrene (Dialite foam), 7.5 cm (3")
  •  Spheres, Styrene, 1"
  •  Stakes, Wood
  •  Tape, Duct, 2" wide, 55-yd Roll
  •  Tape, Masking, 1" wide, 36-yd Roll
  •  Wire, Aluminum, 14 Gauge, 60 ft
Needed But Not Included:
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