Scale of the Universe NGSS Activity Sort Video ESS1.A & PS4.A & B ESS2.A


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Your students will learn and have so much fun! After this activity your students will have a much deeper understanding of how our universe started and how the solar system and life evolved into what it is today! It’s interactive, inquiry based, metacognitive and integrated NGSS!!! I highly recommend you purchase The Universe and Its Stars in my store. It’s only $2.99 and it’s a perfect scaffold for this resource.

This resources is now Google Ready for Distance Learning!

It’s easy prep! Just print 1 set of cards per group and cut them up into 9 individual squares. I also like to print 8 larger ones that I eventually put up on my white board as we discuss the correct order. Students first start by accessing their background knowledge of the Universe and the size of Earth compared to it. It’s a very open-ended question with the purpose of metacognition later in the reflection section of part 5. (5 minutes)

Students then attempt to sort the cards in order of size, from smallest to biggest. I first tell students to write what they think the correct order is in the 1st table individually and to not sort them yet. During this time, it’s silent and students are thinking on their own. Then as a group, students sort the cards and discuss their thinking. I then quiet the class down and call on individual students. This creates great class discussion! As students tell me the correct order, I place the cards up on my white board with a piece of tape. As students learn the correct order, they fill in the 2nd table. I also tell them the size, which students write in the 2nd table as well. As you tell them the size it really engages them and they begin to get perspective on how massive objects in space are compared to us on Earth. I then repeat the above for distance and age. (30-40 minutes)

When we are done sorting, discussing and filling in the rest of the tables, I play a 42-minute video that’s very engaging. There are 15 multiple choice questions that go along with the video and help keep the students focused. After the video, I call on students for the correct answers and it’s another opportunity to have great class discussions. (42-50 minutes)

After we discuss the answers to the video, students then start Part 4: Extend. By now you will probably have had students ask you, “If we’ve never been to these places, how do we know so much?” The answer is the light! I use another 4-5 minute YouTube clip that’s great at explaining how light can give us so much information about objects in space without actually going there. It also touches on the Electromagnetic Spectrum and Waves, which is a major NGSS standard! Questions 2 and 3 are about the planet’s orbits and gravity. (15-20 minutes)

In Part 5 “Background Knowledge Reflection” students rethink their answer to the question, “What do you think the Universe is and how small do you think the Earth is compared to it?” (10 minutes)

NGSS Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI):

ESS1.A:  The Universe and Its Stars

• Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models. (MS-ESS1-1)

• Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe. (MS-ESS1-2)

ESS1.B:  Earth and the Solar System

• The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them. (MS-ESS1-2), (MS-ESS1-3)

PS4.A:  Wave Properties

• A simple wave has a repeating pattern with a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. (MS-PS4-1)

PS4.B:  Electromagnetic Radiation

• The path that light travels can be traced as straight lines, except at surfaces between different transparent materials (e.g., air and water, air and glass) where the light path bends. (MS-PS4-2)

• A wave model of light is useful for explaining brightness, color, and the frequency-dependent bending of light at a surface between media. (MS-PS4-2)

ESS2.A:  Earth Materials and Systems

• The planet’s systems interact over scales that range from microscopic to global in size, and they operate over fractions of a second to billions of years. These interactions have shaped Earth’s history and will determine its future.  (MS-ESS2-2)

NGSS Cross Cutting Concepts (CCC):

· Scale, Proportion and Quantity

· Systems and System Models

· Cause and Effect

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (SEP):

· Analyzing and Interpreting Data

· Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information.

This resource includes the following:

Student Handout

Handout Key

Detailed Teacher Notes

Cards for Saturn, Pleiades, Earth, Milky Way, Moon, Sun, Hubble Deep Field, Pluto and Andromeda Galaxy


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