Teacher's Toolkit - Grades 9-12
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 9-12 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:
- How do we know how far away a star is?
- What is the Big Bang Theory?
- What is the value of space exploration?
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 visitors who have to leave the theater during the presentation cannot be readmitted.
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 kept 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 stories from many cultures
- Take a brief tour of 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 activities from textbook.
To gauge students' comprehension, you may invite them to:
- Complete the Post-Visit Quiz
- Share their planetarium experiences verbally
- Write journals about what they saw or experienced at the planetarium
- 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 9-12. You might find information for a topic under several themes. Also refer to the corresponding Grades 9-12 Notes & Discussion Topics page.
Theme One: Astronomical (Celestial) Objects in the Day and Night Sky
1. The Sun is the closest star to us
- Berkeley real-time Sun images (Click "launch" at top of picture)
2. Moon is the Earth's only natural satellite
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
- Interactive Website:
6. Galaxies are large groups of stars (typically 100 billion) held together by their mutual gravitational attraction
- Interactive Website:
- Galaxy with citizen project (Go to galaxy analysis)
Theme Two: The Solar System
1. Overview of solar system: it has 1 star, 8 planets, and many small objects in it
2. Characteristics/properties of different planets
3. How do we know the physical properties of planets?
Space School videos on various planets:
- Activity: NASA lesson plan: visible spectra of known elements
- Website: Multiple NASA resources on Mars (Including videos, image gallery, lesson plans)
4. Special objects such as Asteroids, Comets, Kuiper Belt objects, Oort Cloud, Dwarf Planets (such as Pluto)
- ASU on comets (Look near the bottom for "Issue 6: NASA's EPOXI mission...")
- Interactive Website:
5. Formation of the Solar System
Theme Three: Earth/Moon/Sun Interactions
1. Rotation of the earth: Evidence is day and night
- Kurdistan Planetarium (Earth moves in a helical motion around the Sun as it travels through our galaxy)
2. Rotation of the Earth: Evidence are Seasonal Constellations
Earth revolves around the Sun on a tilted axis. It makes one revolution approximately every 365 days. Look at the following website. Use the controls at the bottom of the screen to add the months and simulate the revolution of Earth around the Sun.
6. Phases of the Moon
8. Historical perspective: geocentric/heliocentric
9. Aurora Borealis
10. Solar flares
11. Climate, weather, etc.
Theme Four: Constellations
1. Modern 88 official constellations, Seasonal versus Circumpolar constellations, and some basic constellations
2. Sky maps and stargazing
Theme Five: Life of a Star
1. How do stars live?
2. Stellar corpses: black holes, neutron stars
- Space School on black holes and quasars
- Canada's Perimeter for Theoretical Physics: Gravitational lensing and dark matter
- National Geographic Society on interstellar travel
- Space.com (Search "Black Hole: Warping Time and Space")
3. HR diagram
Theme Six: Forces and Physical Properties
Theme Seven: Space Exploration
Theme Eight: History of NASA
- Space.com (Search "Asteroid Bound")
Theme Nine: Big Bang Theory and Cosmology
Theme Ten: Exoplanets
Theme Eleven: Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Readings: Grades 9-12
- Black Holes and Other Space Phenomena, Young Observer
- The Usbourne Internet-Linked Book of Astronomy and Space, Lisa Miles and Alastair Smith
- Nature Activities Star Gazer, Ben Morgan
- 1000 Facts About Space, Pam Beasant
- A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
- Astronomy magazine
- Discover magazine
"Great experience! I wish we had time to do more."
–Brent Whalen, Grades 11 & 12, Black Hawk High School
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/.