Grade Six Science Resources for Space Unit

Grade 6: Space

Overall Expectations:

  1. Assess the impact of space exploration on society and the environment
  2. Investigate the characteristics of the systems of which the earth is a part and the relationship between the earth, the sun, and the moon
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the components of the systems of which the earth is a part, and explain the phenomena that result from the movement of different bodies in space

Specific Expectations:

  1. Identify components of the solar system, including the sun, the earth, and other planets, natural satellites, comets, asteroids, and meteoroids, and describe their physical characteristics in qualitative terms
  2. Identify the bodies in space that emit light (e.g., stars) and those that reflect light (e.g., moons and planets)
  3. Explain how humans meet their basic biological needs in space
  4. Describe the effects of the relative positions and motions of the earth, moon, and sun

Item type: Science guide (non-fiction, with fictional elements)

Reference Information:
Fazekas, A. (2016). Star Trek, the official guide to our universe: the true science behind the starship voyages. Washington, DC: National Geographic.

Description: The Official Guide to Our Universe is an exploration of different facets of the universe, using Star Trek as a hook to capture interest. The book is broken into different parts, going into the minutiae of our solar system to formation of stars, nebulae, and galaxies. Detailed photographs of different space phenomena are included on nearly every page, allowing readers to get up close and personal with extra-terrestrial bodies. Detailed star charts map out the night skies, allowing readers to locate stars and galaxies on their own.

This book offers a lot of information, in text, and visual formats. It could act as a resource guide for students studying this science unit. The diagrams it includes for objects within our solar system would allow students to quickly see what the different moons, comets, and asteroids look like, and provide them with their histories. It would be relatively simple to copy pages from the book to distribute to the students. Areas of the text that touch upon elements from the TV show would allow the teacher to find the appropriate clips online, and use them as a hook in class to illustrate different scientific concepts (the immensity of different stars, or the composition of a comet’s tail). Rather than having to look on different websites for appropriate pictures, this book conveniently contains many of the Hubble Telescope’s greatest images. Although it has elements from the Star Trek universe included, the real-world histories and science take precedence over the fictional elements.

 

Item type: Children’s literature (fiction)

Reference Information:
O’Brien, P. (2009). You are the first kid on Mars. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Description: You Are the First Kid on Mars is a storybook that imagines what it would take for a kid to live on Mars, and how they might get there. It explains different scientific concepts for earth-like conditions to be replicated in space (spinning the spaceship to create gravity). It also explains how humans might prosper in space, or on other planets, through the use of plants, which create food but also provide breathable air. The book is heavily illustrated, with minimal segments of informative text. It follows a young boy as he leaves Earth, travels to Mars, explores the planet, and then returns home. Concepts not yet realized are given explanations on how they might operate once the technology becomes available.

This book is very easy to follow along, and would be ideal for this age group. The illustrations are captivating, and the text isn’t difficult to read, as it is kept to a minimum. The storybook would be excellent for explaining how humans might survive in space and on other planets. It could provoke discussions on the kind of planning explorers would need to consider prior to leaving for Mars. The final pages of the book include many bite-sized pieces of Martian trivia. Some of the units of measurement follow the Imperial System, so I would have to explain the Metric equivalents. The example they use for the “first kid on Mars” is a white boy, which is limits the appeal somewhat. With a little creativity, they could have obscured the identity of the child, allowing any reader to picture themselves as the main character.

 

Item Type: Application

Reference Information: Sky Map Devs. (2016). Sky Map (Version. Varies by device) [Mobile Application Software]. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/

Description: This mobile app allows users to identify, in real time, objects in the night sky. By moving the smart device around, the app tracks the user’s position and labels each star, planet, or galaxy that is visible. The constellations are also identified. Each object remains relative to the others in order to make identification easier. The app is intuitive to use, and doesn’t have a cluttered interface. In order to reduce eyestrain at night, or make looking at the stars easier, there is a red-light function, which allows for astronomers to see finer points of light in the sky after glancing away from the screen. The app makes used of compass, and gyroscope, functionalities, so devices without these functions may have limited functionality.

Since this app can track the movements of objects in the sky, it would be ideal for students to use in this unit. Students could be asked to track different planets, and which constellations they will pass through. When discussing different objects in space, the application could be used to demonstrate where the objects are, even if they aren’t immediately visible. With the “time-travel” feature, students could see how differently the objects move in relation to each other during different moments in time. Phases of the moon can be tracked, allowing student to predict what the moon will look like in subsequent days. The app can also be pointed at the “ground” and show what stars and planets are visible on the other side of the world, thus introducing outer space as a 3D concept.

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