Lab Aids | Store

Middle School Curriculum

Back in 1963 when LAB-AIDS® shipped its first kit, we had a vision, to revolutionize the middle school classroom with one of the first inquiry-based approaches to learning science through hands-on activity. More Info

Solar System and Beyond | NGSS

Solar System and Beyond | NGSS

~25 40 to 50 minute class periods (5 weeks)

What kinds of future space missions should we fund and conduct?
Students take observations from their everyday life and build scientific models to try to understand how phenomena, such as changes in the moon’s appearance, seasons, and gravity work. Through data collection and analyzation students later use their understanding of what can be learned through space missions to determine the trade-offs of different proposed space missions.

PE Assessment Example: Prepare a labeled diagram that includes a caption explaining how Earth’s tilt and its orbit around the Sun cause each of the following: a. changes in the angle of sunlight hitting the Earth’s surface. b. the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere to be opposite of the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.

Solar System and Beyond is part of Issues and Science three year middle school program, designed by SEPUP at the Lawrence Hall of Science. This five week unit anchors the lessons around the the socio-science issue: What kind of future space missions should we fund and conduct? Investigative phenomena within the 17 activities connect back to the issue and storyline. This unit builds towards and assesses PEs ESS1-1, ESS1-2, ESS1-3.


Content in Solar System and Beyond | NGSS is organized into 17 activities, as follows:

Activity Title Activity Type Activity Overview
1. Exploring Space Talking It Over Students read about different missions to space that have helps scientists understand more about our Solar System. Each mission they read about includes information about what was learned and some of the technological challenges faced by each mission. Students then share what they learned and discuss the trade-offs between exploring space with spacecraft and using research money elsewhere.
2. The Predictable Moon Investigation Students use Moon Phase Cards to make observations about the different phases of the Moon and look for patterns. Once they identify the pattern of the cycle of the Moon’s phases, they will examine observations of the Moon made over a period of time. They will try to identify a pattern in the observations and make predictions about the appearance of the Moon on days missing from the data set. They establish that the cycle of the Moon’s phases is a little shorter than a typical month.
3. Explaining the Moon Phases Modeling Students explore physical models to help them understand the reason for the changes to the Moon’s appearance over time. The models use a light to represent the Sun and a white or pale ball to represent the Moon. This model introduces students to the idea that the Moon’s phase at any given time depends on the Moon’s changing position relative to Earth and the Sun as the Moon orbits Earth. In the next activity, students will explore a computer model of the same idea. Using both models best helps students visualize the orbit of the Moon around the Earth and how it explains the changing appearance of the Moon as viewed from Earth.
4. Moon Phase Simulation Computer Simulation Working at computers, students interact with a two -dimensional simulation that shows the direction of sunlight and the relative positions of the Earth and Moon as the Earth rotates and the Moon orbits the Earth. They sketch what they observe in the simulation and build towards an understanding of how the Moon orbits the Earth. They then connect this experience with their observations of the Moon’s phases and the physical models used in the previous activities.
5. The Moon’s Orbit Modeling Students manipulate a physical model of the orbital plane the Moon travels in as it orbits the Earth. This three -dimensional model allows students to investigate why eclipses, both lunar and solar, are relatively rare. This activity is the final opportunity in this unit for students to cement their understanding regarding why the Moon’s orbit results in phase changes in the Moon as seen from Earth.
6. Changing Sunlight Investigation Students graph and analyze data on length of daylight and the angle of the Sun during the course of a year in the Northern Hemisphere and relate the patterns they observe to seasonal changes. They discover the correlation between daylight length and the position of the Sun in the sky, and relate these variables to the seasons. This awareness of seasonal patterns in the Sun’s position and apparent motion prepares them for a discussion of the reasons behind these changes in the next three activities.
7. A Year Viewed from Space Computer Simulation Students use a computer model to investigate the effects of the orbit of Earth around the Sun and Earth’s tilt on seasonal changes in the Northern Hemisphere. Students use the simulation to observe Earth as it revolves around the Sun and to record data for different seasons. They use their observations to develop an explanation for the cause of Earth’s seasons.
8. Earth’s Tilt Modeling Students continue to explore the effect of Earth’s tilt in determining the seasons. Two teacher demonstrations show that light is more concentrated, or less spread out, when it strikes a surface at a 90° angle than at any other angle. Using a photovoltaic cell, students explore how the angle of the sunlight striking it affects the amount of solar energy the cell absorbs.
9. Earth on the Move Reading Students read a summary of the reason for Earth’s seasons. The reading emphasizes the role of Earth’s tilt in determining the angle of the Sun’s rays and the length of the day, both of which contribute to observed seasonal variations in temperature at Earth’s surface. Students complete a three-level reading guide to help them process the information in the reading.
10. Observing Objects in Space Investigation Students make observations of celestial bodies and learn to identify different kinds of objects that can be seen in space. They identify various objects, such as planets, stars, asteroids, galaxies and moons, by such features as apparent size, brightness, and visual appearance. Students use telescopic images to make accurate observations of the difference space objects.
11. Drawing the Solar System Modeling Using a distance scale, students calculate the distance from the Sun to each planet in the Solar System. They make a model of the Solar System by drawing the scaled distance to each planet. Using the same scale, they investigate the diameters of the planets and discover that the scale used for distances in the Solar System is inadequate for drawing an accurate model of each planet. The activity is supported by a literacy strategy that helps students articulate their prior knowledge and reflect on the development of the main concepts in the activity.
12. How Big are the Planets? Project Students explore the sizes of planets in the Solar System, and create a physical model showing the relative sizes of the planets. To do this, they select an appropriate scale, calculate the diameter of the scaled objects, and find round objects that accurately represent the size of each planet. They consider how large the Sun would have to be in their scaled model. Students use a literacy strategy to reflect on what they have learned about the diameters of the planets.
13. Identifying Planets Investigation Students analyze data on planets and objects in the Solar System. They are then given four descriptions of different planets based the descriptions of planets and their analysis of the planetary data to identify which planets in our Solar System the transmissions are referring to.
14. Gravitational Force Investigation Students will be introduced to some of the characteristics of gravity as they explore the relationship of gravitational pull to distance and mass. They graph the gravitational force between Saturn and some particles in the rings orbiting it. Students compare the gravitational force of smaller and larger mass particles orbiting at the same distance, and of particles of equal mass orbiting at different distances from the planet.
15. The Effects of Gravity Reading This reading about gravity summarizes for students the relationship between mass, distance, and gravitational force. Students also read about gravity’s role in the orbits of space objects, and how spacecraft are put into orbit around Earth. Two literacy strategies are used to support students’ comprehension of the ideas in the reading.
16. Modeling Gravity Computer Simulation In this activity students use a computer simulation to model how gravity affects the orbits of planets in the Solar System. They use their model and data related to the planets, to figure out how massive the Sun must be for us to observe the planetary orbits we observe in our Solar System. They then complete a short reading relating their model to the motions of stars and solar systems within a galaxy. Finally, students are asked to develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions of space objects within the galaxy and solar systems.
17. Choosing a Mission Talking It Over In this activity, students make a decision about funding a space exploration mission to Titan. Presented with three proposed missions, they are asked to recommend one. To aid their decision making, students discuss the feasibility of each mission and what it could accomplish. The student groups make a decision based on information in the mission proposals and content from the previous activities. As a culmination of their work on the issue, each student then writes a letter citing the evidence that forms the basis of his or her recommendation.

Lab-Aids® provides several useful tools to guide you and your students through the Solar System and Beyond unit:

Solar System and Beyond | NGSS

Student Book

The Student Book guides students in exploring a socio-science issue and connected phemonena through a series of varied activity types. Activity types use one of twelve different instructional strategies to apply Science and Engineering Practices to specific Disciplinary Core Ideas and Cross Cutting Concepts.

SEPUP's integrated literacy strategies help students process new science content, develop their analytical skills, make connections between related concepts, and express their knowledge orally and in writing. The built-in assessment system helps teachers identify students' strengths and weaknesses from the beginning of the unit. This allows them to adjust activities when needed so that all students get the best chance to build their knowledge and appreciation of science. At the back of the Student Book there is an Appendix containing additional resources for students, such as science skills, literacy strategies, and media literacy among others.

Solar System and Beyond | NGSS

Lab-Aids® Science Lab Notebook

A science notebook not only models the way scientists work, but it helps to develop and reinforce students’ science learning and literacy skills.

The Lab-Aids Science Lab Notebook is designed to support best practice note-booking strategies. It includes three-hole punched pages in a two-column design for Cornell-style notes. GraphAnywhere pages allow students to both write and easily create data-tables and graphs anywhere on the page. The unique “Lab-Log” column serves as a blank canvas for drawings, connections, and self-reflective notes. 160 pages total.

Solar System and Beyond | NGSS

Complete Equipment Package

Lab-Aids programs include high-quality equipment for each activity. This includes innovative lab-ware to be used throughout the year, specific solutions and materials for unique labs, as well as items needed for card sorts, modeling, role-plays, and projects.

Materials for up to 5 classes of 32 students, mobile storage cart, Online Portal for one teacher includes online subscription to Teacher Edition and Resources, Student Book in English/Spanish (E/S), student sheets (E/S), visual aids (E/S), PowerPoints, online assessment system, LABsent, and supplemental resources

Solar System and Beyond | NGSS

Teacher's Edition and Resources

The SEPUP Teacher Edition (TE) guides you through each activity in the Student Book and helps you see the development of concepts within the big picture of the unit. It helps you set up the equipment from the kit, organize the classroom, conduct activities, and manage practical details, all of which enhance students’ learning environment.

The Teacher Edition text is broken down into several sections, such as Activity Overview, NGSS Connections and Correlations, Materials and Advanced Prep, Teaching Summary, and Background information to name a few. The Teacher Edition is packaged as a color-printed, loose-leaf binder which allows you to personalize it with highlighting, annotations, rearrangements, and insertions. It provides full support for teaching the program. Additional support resources can also found in the Teacher Resource book.

The Teacher Resource (TR) provides background and suggestions to increase the overall effectiveness of implementing the program across all levels of learners. Some sections include: SEPUP’s Approach to Teaching and Learning, Differentiation Strategies for Diverse Learners, Literacy Strategies for Supporting Reading Comprehension and for Enhancing Students’ Writing, and comprehensive instruction on the SEPUP Assessment System. There is also a section containing unit specific resources, such as overviews, unit storyline and phenomena table, NGSS correlations, assessment blueprints, and item banks.

Online Portal for Students

Access to Student online portal for 1 year, which includes: the digital Student Book (Spanish coming soon), additional resources, and LABsent sheets and videos for absent students. Ability to highlight, bookmark and make notes in the Student Book, complete homework and assessments, and communicate with the teacher. Also available as multi-year subscriptions

Online Portal for Teachers

Access to Teacher online portal for 7 years, which includes: online subscription to the Teacher Edition and Resources, Student Book (Spanish coming soon), LABsent sheets & videos for absent students, Editable PowerPoints for each lesson, and integrated online assessment system. Ability to highlight, bookmark, and make notes in personal Student and Teacher books, create and assign homework and assessments, and communicate with students. Available as multi-year subscriptions. Single Sign-On (SSO) available