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EDC: Earth Science, Revised

EDC: Earth’s Place in the Universe, Revised | Unit 3

EDC: Earth’s Place in the Universe, Revised | Unit 3

5-7 weeks

Chapter 8 Stars, Planets, and Everything In Between: Solar System Origins

Students learn about methods for dating the age of the earth and other objects in the universe. They use a card sort activity to investigate planets, asteroids, comets, and other solar system neighbors, and compare different models that account for the birth of the solar system and the life and death of stars. They learn about Kepler's Laws of Motion and investigate the geometry of movement of orbits. They conduct a mock trial to examine evidence for the solar nebular condensation theory, and examine line spectra used by astronomers to investigate the composition of objects located many light years from the Earth.

Chapter 9 Journey to the Center of the Earth: Exploring Earth’s Interior

Students begin their exploration of the geosphere by looking down at their feet and wondering what lies below them. If they could dig through the floor, through the foundation of their building, through the soil and rocks, and keep going and going, what would they see? They explore Earth’s internal structure, as well as the movements and changes that occur within the planet that have a profound effect interior by creating a “journey” into the Earth, communicating scientific information about what they would encounter along the way.

Content in EDC: Earth’s Place in the Universe, Revised | Unit 3 is organized into activities, as follows:

Activity Title Activity Overview
What's the Story?. Meteorites: “Scientific Gold” Students read a story about meteorites and their value to scientists hoping to determine the origin of the solar system.
Activity 1. The Dating Game Students learn about how scientists determine the age of rocks based on the relative amounts of radioactive “parent” isotopes and their stable “daughter” nuclei.
Reading. The Life Cycles of Stars Students read about the life cycles of stars and how they produce the heavy elements found in planets.
Activity 2. Solar System Census Students examine information on a deck of cards to look for patterns in physical and dynamical properties of the constituent bodies of the solar system. Students also discover some “exceptions to the rules” they have identified. They begin to think about how a successful formation theory must be able to explain all of these features of the present-day solar system.
Reading. Solar Nebula Condensation Theory Students read about the solar nebula condensation theory and think about whether what they’ve read supports or contradicts the patterns they discovered in Activity 2.
Activity 3. Model of a Spinning Nebula Students construct a simple model of the solar nebula that is believed to have been the birthplace of the solar system.
Activity 4. Explaining Patterns of Motion with Kepler’s Laws of Motion Students learn about Kepler’s laws of motion for orbiting bodies and practice creating and analyzing ellipses.
Address the Challenge. Mock Trial/Debate Students prepare to act as expert witnesses in a mock trial in defense of the solar nebula condensation theory of solar-system formation. They think about how to reconcile irregularities and inconsistencies that might threaten the validity of the current leading theory of solar systems’ origins.
Activity 5 (Extend). Spectroscopy (Extend) Students learn about spectroscopy, the technique astronomers use to separate light received from distant objects into its component wavelengths, and how patterns in the light reveal information about an object’s color, temperature, and composition.
What's the Story?. Burrowing to the Depths Students read a story about two science fiction authors who wrote novels about journeys into Earth’s interior. They think about what they would need to learn about Earth to write a science fiction story that conveyed accurate information about what the planet’s interior is really like.
Task. Thinking on a Planetary Scale Students develop a comparison to help them understand the large scale of Earth.
Reading. A Dense Interior Students read about how Newton calculated Earth’s density and how this proved the planet’s interior couldn’t be hollow. They learn about how gravitational differentiation caused Earth to have a layered structure with the densest materials in the core.
Activity 1. Modeling Earth's Interior Structure Students construct scale models of Earth’s interior, consulting expert information.
Activity 2. See What You Can’t See Students use aluminum cans filled with different substances to investigate how scientists use waves to explore Earth’s interior.
Reading. How Do Scientists Explore Earth’s Interior? Students learn about scientific techniques for exploring Earth’s interior without actually going there.
Activity 3. Body Waves Students use their bodies to model two types of seismic waves that allow scientists to determine the properties of materials within Earth.
Activity 4. Locating an Earthquake Epicenter Students analyze seismograms to determine the epicenter of an earthquake.r.
Reading. Energy in Earth’s Interior Students read about the sources of thermal energy in Earth’s interior and how the transfer of heat through convection in the mantle drives plate motion on the surface.
Address the Challenge. Science Fiction Story Students synthesize what they have learned by designing a robotic vehicle that could survive the conditions within Earth and writing a science fiction story about a journey to Earth’s core that conveys accurate scientific information about what Earth’s interior is really like.

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