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Modeling molecules in alien rain

Students will compare and contrast rain on Earth with rain on other planets and practice drawing molecular structures of various rain substances to examine the substances' physical and chemical properties. Students will use that information, along with the planetary conditions needed to form rain, to create a short weather forecast for one planet.

Get to know your local geology

Students will learn about plate tectonics, research the geologic and tectonic history of their region or state and analyze geologic maps to understand how plate tectonics shaped the landscape.

The joy of science

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “From Elvis worms to the Milky Way’s edge, these science stories sparked joy in 2020,” which summarizes Science News stories from 2020 that provided a happy distraction from the world’s worries. A version of the story, “Stories that sparked joy,” can be found in the December 19, 2020 & January 2, 2021 issue of Science News.

The hunt for other worlds

Students will research exoplanets and their properties and detection methods. Then students will use fictitious data to create a light curve of a transiting exoplanet and to calculate the exoplanet’s motion through its solar system.

Mission to Mars

Students will develop a design for an exploratory Mars mission to gather and study data about one aspect of Mars. The ultimate goal of the mission will be to gather data to help plan for a future human-crewed mission to Mars.

Space for research

Students will learn about the International Space Station and research done by astronauts aboard the space station, and come up with their own research question that could be explored in space.

Spacefaring bacteria in the spotlight

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “If bacteria band together, they can survive for years in space,” which describes an experiment on the International Space Station that suggests microbes are capable of surviving interplanetary travel. A version of the story, “Bacteria can survive for years in space,” can be found in the September 26, 2020 issue of Science News.

Capturing an exoplanet family portrait

Students will answer questions about the online Science News article “This is the first picture of a sunlike star with multiple exoplanets,” which describes a young solar system 300 light-years from our own. A version of the story, “A weird solar system cousin makes its photographic debut,” can be found in the August 29, 2020 issue of Science News.

Why use units

To determine the purpose of units in science, students will identify and compare the units used for common outer space measurements with units typically used for Earth measurements. Then, students will think about the importance of using standard units versus relative values when describing data before creating a scaled drawing of exoplanet distances.

Phase changes: cloudy with a chance of iron rain

Students will use phase diagrams to explore how changes in temperature and pressure affect a substance’s phase of matter before applying the concepts to meteorology on Earth and the exoplanet WASP 76b.

Seeing into the moon

Students will answer questions about the Science News article “Rover peers beneath moon’s farside,” which details new geologic evidence that could help scientists understand why the lunar nearside and farside look so different.

Dissecting diagrams

Students will explore the value of diagrams, what information they should include and how to draw them. This discussion can be used with any science- or engineering-related article that contains a diagram.