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Glowing Glimpses of our Universe Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-AST0009
Author: Patricia L. Clark
School or Affiliation: Hoover Elementary, Medford, OR
These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops. Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 4, 5, 6


  • Science/Astronomy

Overview: Space exploration and advances are all around us. From the science fiction of Star Trek to the reality of the NASA Challenger explosion, our world must be broadened beyond our life here on Earth. Future education must address and be involved in developing programs that aid space awareness. Too often our young people limit their world to their own backyard. Students need supplemental activities that will make the study of our universe more concrete. The activities described here were done concurrently with our science lessons on our Universe. Purpose: The purpose of these activities is to bring space home to young people. The abstractness of our universe is so incomprehensible to young people that they often give up before even trying to understand. A need exists to introduce students to hands-on activities that will provide enjoyment, and in so doing, will promote growth and encourage interest and awareness in our universe. These activities are reinforcement activities of curriculum covered in class.

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  • Describe the solar system and some of the characteristics of the inner planets.
  • Describe the outer planets.
  • Explain the ways in which stars differ from one another.
  • Resources/Materials Needed:

  • luminescent paint
  • different colored glitter
  • black poster board
  • sheets of pliable styrofoam
  • Activities:

    The following activities are hands-on activities to supplement our adopted 5th grade curriculum. While the text introduces information to cover the stated goals, as mentioned in purpose of this packet, the intent of these activities is to reduce the abstractness of covering reading information, by providing hands-on activities to reinforce material covered.

  • After covering information on our solar system, students will enjoy this reinforcement activity. Each student will make a glow-in-the-dark planet chart. Each planet is cut from thin sheets of pliable styrofoam, then painted with luminescent paint (available in craft stores). While paint is still wet, sprinkle on a different colored glitter for each planet. Put planets onto a large rectangular piece of black poster board, in order from the Sun (depicted by a partial circle that takes up the whole left edge) to Pluto. Small rectangular labels are placed beneath each planet that says the name, diameter, distance from the sun and rotation rates. Students love it when the class is done and the lights are turned out and the planets glow in the dark!
  • After covering information on different stars and basic constellations and asterisms (part of larger constellations), students will do the following activities to reinforce information:
    • Students will visit local planetarium. (Luckily, our city has a planetarium at the high school and Starwalk lessons are taught in the classroom to supplement basic text). At the planetarium, students will chart the placement of the sun as seen in our sky as the earth rotates and revolves. Additionally, students will actually see and identify basic constellations introduced in class.
    • Students will use constellation dot pictures of 5 basic constellations (Orion, Cassiopeia, Cygnus, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major) and asterisms (Little and Big Dipper) and try to create their own pictures! For example: Cassiopeia could be a cornucopia!
    • Students will paint constellation dots in black poster board using luminescent (glow-in-the-dark) paint again. Students enjoy seeing the dots glow and trying to identify the constellations.
    • Students will graph star colors by temperature on a bar graph (red, yellow, white and blue stars).
  • Tying it all Together:

    During a child’s elementary education, there are projects that stand out and are remembered throughout that child’s life. Those projects are usually hands-on activities that bring life to a lesson taught. The glow-in-the-dark projects shared here are a reinforcement that they’ll see at night long after the lights are out! By making our universe a part of your student’s everyday life, it is hoped it will spark the wonder that will encourage future space awareness.