Teacher's Toolkit - Grades 6-8
This toolkit is designed to help you make the most of your visit to the Manfred Olson Planetarium. Refer to the following list for quick and easy navigation:
- Before Your Planetarium Visit
- During Your Planetarium Visit
- After Your Planetarium Visit
- Learning Activities
Various activities, videos, websites, and audio clips for students. Also refer to the corresponding Grades 6-8 Notes & Discussion Topics page.
Before Your Planetarium Visit
Please consider incorporating the questionnaires below into your lesson plan:
- Pre-Visit Questionnaire (.doc) or (.pdf)
- Post-Visit Questionnaire (.doc) or (.pdf)
- Answers to Questionnaires (.doc) or (.pdf)
You could also compile a list of astronomical questions from your students and bring it with you and/or send it to Jean in advance. There is a question period during your visit at our facility where we could discuss these and other questions as time permits.
Discuss these questions with your students prior to your visit, to stimulate their curiosity:
- What are constellations?
- What is the Zodiac?
- What causes day and night?
- What causes seasons?
- What causes an eclipse?
- What causes the Moon's phases?
- How can you tell a star from a planet?
- What is retrograde motion?
- What is a circumpolar star?
- How did the solar system form? How do we know?
- What do geocentric and heliocentric mean?
- What are the differences between Terrestrial and Jovian planets?
- What celestial bodies make up the universe?
- What is the origin of the universe? How do we know?
- What did Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Galileo do for astronomy?
During Your Planetarium Visit
Please arrive 10-15 minutes before your scheduled visit. Locate the restrooms in the Physics Building lobby and give students the opportunity to use them. The theater doors lock after the show starts and it will be disturbing to allow visitors back into the Planetarium.
Please remind your students to be quiet in the hallways. UWM classes may be in session.
The students will have the opportunity to:
- Look at the sky on the evening of the Planetarium visit
- Point to stars, planets and the Moon if visible from Milwaukee
- Enjoy a beautiful dark sky away from city lights (for this age group, the dark sky portion is short)
- Move their bodies to model the Earth's rotation as the cause for night and day.
- Recognize geometric shapes in the constellations
- Realize that the constellations are the basis for many cultural stories
- Tour the solar system and look at images of main objects in the solar system
- See how the sky changes during the course of the night
- Ask an astronomer questions
Supplementary Activities for an Additional Fee (Optional Hands-On Activities)
At your option (Additional $30-$60 depending on group size), the following activities offered during your visit:
After Your Planetarium Visit
Remind the students how they responded to the Pre-Visit Questionnaire at the top of this page, and invite them to discuss:
- How their thoughts have changed
- The reasoning behind their thoughts
- What they have learned
Use the Post-Visit Questionnaire as a model for additional discussion. Use their responses to correct misconceptions that students may have developed - through further questioning, class participation, and other textbook activities.
To gauge students' comprehension, you may invite them to:
- Complete the Post-Visit Quiz
- Share their planetarium experiences verbally
- Write journals about their planetarium experience.
- Research and write a report on space exploration or other celestial phenomena
- Write a science fiction story that includes celestial phenomena
Listed below are the major themes for grades 6-8. You might find information for a topic under several themes. Also refer to the corresponding Grades 6-8 Notes & Discussion Topics page.
Theme One: Astronomical (Celestial) Objects in the Day and Night Sky
1. The Sun is the closest star to us
Basic information, activities and videos on the Sun
Images concerning parts of the Sun:
- FusEd Web
- Anatomy of the Sun
- Views of The Solar System (Image in middle of page)
- Universe Today diagram of the Sun (Grade 8)
2. Moon is the Earth's only natural satellite
- Activity: NASA Impact Craters (Page 61 activity, G5-12 downloadable guide with activities on exploring the Moon)
- Website: Moon phase calendar
3. Stars are big balls of gas that make their own light
4. Planets (the Earth is a planet) go around stars and in our solar system they have to be big enough to form a spherical shape rather than a potato shape
5. Meteors or shooting stars or falling stars are brief luminous trails observed when a small piece of rock from space enters the Earth's upper atmosphere
6. A constellation in modern astronomy is one of the 88 designated areas in the sky that often get their names from patterns of bright stars in that area of the sky
7. Galaxies are large groups of stars (typically 100 billion) held together by their mutual gravitational attraction
- Website: Teacher information on galaxies
- Images: Hubble Image gallery
- Website: Windows to the Universe information for teachers
- Website: Galaxy Zoo citizen identification project and interactive project utilizing real data
Theme Two: The Solar System
1. Overview of solar system: it has 1 star, 8 planets, and many small objects in it
- Solar System in Your Pocket (Shows the relative distances between the Sun and the planets)
- Students work in groups and try to recall all the information they can about the Sun and the planets; they write one fact/property/idea on a post it and put it on the appropriate poster; each group is assigned a poster to organize its facts in correct, incorrect, uncertain statements for their assigned poster. For older students, they can discuss how they would check the uncertain statements. Also, we connected these properties to how the solar system formed.
The Sun is located at the center of our solar system.
- Interactive Website: Kids Astromony: Our Solar System (Grade 6)
2. Characteristics/properties of different planets. How do we know the physical properties of a planet?
Information on the planets:
- Windows to the Universe Planet pictures/information
- NASA information on planets
- Information on the outer planets (Grade 8)
- ASU realistic planning mission to Mars (Grade 8)
- NASA 3-D space travel
- Kids Astronomy (Click on left side to learn about each planet)
- Build a Solar System (You can find the correct relative distances to planets by consulting. For older kids, you can have them calculate the distances for a certain scale. Younger kids provide the numbers.)
3. Special objects such as Asteroids, Comets, Kuiper Belt objects, Oort Cloud, Dwarf Planets (Such as Pluto) (Grade 5)
- Activty: ASU activities on comets ("Issue 6: NASA's EPOXI mission..." near the bottom of the page)
4. Formation of the Solar System
Theme Three: Earth/Moon/Sun Interactions
1. Rotation of the earth: Evidence is day and night
- Video: Earth moves in a helical motion around the Sun as it travels through our galaxy (For teachers)
- Interative Website: Explore a model of Earth's daily rotation
2. Rotation of the Earth: Evidence are Seasonal Constellations
- Website: Information on tides (Left side of screen)
- Interactive Website: Canada Space Agency - Why Earth experiences tides (Grade 8)
- Activity: Kids Eclipse Simulation (Click on "Try this activity")
6. Phases of the Moon
- Video: What causes Earth's Seasons?
- Website: Seasons and other interactions
- Challenger Center for Space Education (Grade 8)
- Lesson from MN Science Teacher Education Project
- Students explore the shadows of a toothpick projected on a manila folder when a flashlight moves: Stick a toothpick into a 1" square piece of Styrofoam. Stick the Styrofoam on the manila folder. Project the flashlight onto the toothpick. Students notice that the direction and length of shadow move. They find they can reproduce those changes even if the Sun stays stationary and the folder moves.
8. Historical perspective: geocentric/heliocentric
9. Aurora Borealis
- Video: Time lapse view of Earth from the International Space Station
- Interactive Website: Auroras: Mysterious Lights in The Sky
- Website: Auroras: Paintings in the Sky
10. Solar flares
- Activity: Solar Week activities on solar flares
- Website: Multimedia NASA presentation on Solar Storms (Under Monday "Learn about the Sun as a star," Tuesday - "Drawing sunspots from an image")
- Activity: Sunspot graphing
- Video: Space weather
11. Climate, weather, etc.
- Activity: NASA Green house gases with gummies (Bottom of page)
- Website: Climate Wisconsin (Vignettes of how climate change is impacting different WI locals and residents)
- Website: Carbon and climate (Grade 8)
Theme Four: Constellations
1. Modern 88 official constellations, Seasonal versus Circumpolar constellations, and some basic constellations
- Graphing constellation coordinates from Texas Space Grant
- Modeling the night sky: Zodiac constellations (Grade 6)
- The Sun is a yellow Styrofoam ball in the middle of the Planetarium. Teacher is the Earth going around the Sun and you students are stars twinkling. As teacher moves around the Sun, he/she could see the constellations away from the Sun only.
2. Sky maps and stargazing
Theme Five: Life of a Star
1. How do stars live?
- Website: NASA: Summary of life of a star
- Interactive Website: How stars live (Grade 8) (See sections on bottom)
2. Stellar corpses
- Website: Windows to the Universe information on black holes
- Video: Space.com (Go to Search tab and type in "Black Holes: Warping Time and Space")
- Website: Information from Hubble on black holes (See "Journey to Black Hole")
3. HR diagram
- Activity: Jewels of the Night
- Interactive Website: Stellar Evolution and the HR Diagram
- Website: Overview of HR Diagram (Grade 8)
Theme Six: Forces and Physical Properties
- Activity: 4 lessons from GRACE
Theme Seven: Space Exploration
- Activity: Rocket building
- Video: Space.com (Go to Search tab and type in "Mars through the Eyes of Spirit")
Theme Eight: History of NASA
- Website: NASA missions (On left: current, past, and future)
Theme Nine: Big Bang Theory and Cosmology
- Video: Before Time and Space (Description of the Big Bang from National Geographic)
- Website: NASA Information on evidence for Big Bang (Grade 8)
Theme Ten: Exoplanets
Theme Eleven: Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Readings: Grades 6-8
- What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees, Nancy Tafuri
- The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System, Joanna Cole
- The Magic School Bus Space Explorers, Joanna Cole
- The Solar System, Cathy Imhoff
- Follow the Drinking Gourd, Jeanette Winter
- The Usbourne Internet-Linked Book of Astronomy and Space, Lisa Miles and Alastair Smith
- Black Holes and Other Space Phenomena, Young Observer
- Nature Activities Star Gazer, Ben Morgan
- 1000 Facts About Space, Pam Beasant
“Jean speaks very clearly and engages all the kids. She also “saves their dignity” when their answers to her questions are wrong. Very informative and obvious she loves her work.” –Mrs. Schulz, Grade 6, Wheatland Center
“First time here for me. I teach English and Reading. I have minimal science background. It was fascinating! I learned a lot from you and was impressed with Dr. Hunter and Dr. Stephanie as well!” –Bart Wepking, Grade 6, Wheatland Center
“Nice mix of audio, visual, and kinesthetic activities.” –S. Danks, Grade 6, Fritsche
“Great, informative presentation and super management of the group. Thank you!” –Jenny Statza, Grade 7, Lincoln Intermediate
We would like to thank the National Science Foundation for its support of the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The teachers who contributed resources for the UWM Planetarium webpage—Ms. Jeanine Gelhaus (Medford Middle School), Ms. Karen Green (Milwaukee Public Schools High School Science Teaching Specialist), and Mr. McDonald (Alexander Mitchell School)—were all recipients of a RET grant at UWM (2011, 2007, 2008). For more information on this grant opportunity and how to apply see http://www4.uwm.edu/ret/.