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5 E(z) Steps to Teaching Earth-Moon Scaling
NY State / DLESE Collection
( HYPERLINK "http://www.dlese.org" www.dlese.org)
Copyright 2005 by Dr. Thomas OBrien & Doug Seager
modified from original as authored by Dr. Thomas OBrien & Doug Seager in
School Science and Mathematics, SSMILES #48, 100(7), November 2000, pp.390-395
Grade Level: 6-10
Mathematical Skills/Concepts
Computation, construction, use, and interpretation of models, critical thinking, estimation, exponential notation, measurement (linear and cubic), prediction, proportionality, ratio, scale, and use of calculators.
Science Skills/Concepts
Process/inquiry skills as above plus data search (via the www) and the scale of the solar system.
AAAS Benchmarks (Ch.11), Common Themes
Systems, Models & Scale
NYSED Physical Setting/Earth Science Core Curriculum
Key Idea 1: The Earth and celestial phenomena can be described by principles of relative motion
and perspective
1.1b Nine planets move around the sun in nearly circular orbits
* Earth is orbited by one moon and many artificial satellites
1.2a The universe is vast....
1.2c * The characteristics of the planets of the solar system are affected by each planets
location in relation to the sun.
Objectives
1. Critically analyze prior conceptions and textbook visuals of the relative sizes and orbiting distance of the Earth-moon system (and other bodies in our solar system).
2. Search out reliable sources of the above data, including use of the World Wide Web.
3. Construct a scale model of the above by using various athletic balls.
Time needed
Two to five 45-50 minute class periods depending on extent of elaboration
Rationale
The concept of scale and order of magnitude with respect to the relative sizes and distances between the Earth, its moon and other bodies within our solar system poses a unique instructional challenge because: (1) the numbers lie outside students normal comfort zone of 103 to 10-3 meter everyday familiarity, (2) Earth-bound observations, visual biases and misrepresentations in textbooks generate tenacious misconceptions, and (3) teachers and textbooks typically cover the underlying and interrelated mathematics and science much too quickly. Exploring questions and comparing alternative conceptions about Earth-Moon relationships provide an opportunity to: (a) emphasize the primary role of empirical criteria, logical argument and skeptical review in the historical and present day process of science, (b) integrate science with mathematics & technology (as well as history & language arts), and (c) help students to begin to appreciate the vast wonder & scale of our solar system & the broader universe (it truly is far out).
The following 5E Teaching Cycle directly confronts these issues and opportunities by engaging students in multiple intelligences-activating, interdisciplinary, inquiry-oriented participatory demonstrations, data collection exercises, critical analysis and model building. The 5E Teaching Cycle is a curriculum framework for designing a rational sequence of lessons that readily incorporates minds-on/constructivist instructional strategies. It was developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) in the early 1990s as a derivative of the 1960s Science Curriculum Improvement Studys (SCIS) three-step learning cycle and has been used in several BSCS elementary and middle school curricula (for a description of the 5E, see Trowbridge, Bybee & Carlson Powell, 2004).
Lesson Outline
ENGAGE
Display color posters, slides and commercial models of the Earth and its moon to get students thinking about the central topic of astronomical scale in the Earth-moon system (Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 1999). Science cartoons by Sidney Harris, Gary Larsen and others, as well as songs such as The Galaxy Song (Sharon, Lois & Brams Stay Tuned album) and popular tunes from the 1940s-90s that feature the word moon (e.g., Andy Williams Moon River, Cat Stevens Moon Shadow, etc.,) can help provide a light-hearted entry point to an otherwise serious topic.
Focus Question #1: Do you think textbook drawings (and/or commercial models) accurately depict either the relative sizes of or distances between objects (the Earth, moon, planets, and sun) within our solar system? If not, why would textbooks misrepresent scale?
Answer: To be developed via the 5E; not to be given here. Textbook figures are notoriously drawn not to scale. Even if the relative sizes of celestial bodies are drawn to scale (a rarity), relative inter-planetary distances within our solar system, are not and cannot be drawn within the confines of a textbook without the use of a huge, costly fold-out section. To elicit their prior conceptions of earth-moon scale and establish an atmosphere of FUNdaMENTAL science, engage the students with the following:
Participatory Demonstration: Randomly distribute a variety of athletic balls (see Table 1 under Explain) pulled out of a mysterious black garbage bag of science. Ask the individuals to hold the sports spheres over their heads so all can see them. Ask everyone to select and write down the two spheres which they think best represent the relative sizes of the Earth and the moon and to briefly describe the basis for their hypothesis. Poll the class and tally the results on the blackboard or overhead projector for the various possible combinations. Note the variety of answers. Ask the class: (a) Do scientists determine the validity of various claims by voting? Or if not, (b) what numerical data would you need to determine the accuracy of your hypothesis and where might we obtain such data? (c) When we look at 2D pictures or 3D models of the Earth and the moon, do we perceive relative size in terms of linear (diameter), squared (surface area), or cubic (volume) measurements?
Optional At-Home Experiment (at some point during the 5E): Ask students to observe and compare the apparent, relative sizes of a rising full moon when it is near the horizon and again when its near its peak elevation. If the students repeat the experiment the next night using a 50 cm long dowel rod with a washer (with a 5 mm hole) taped down from the far end of the stick to size up the moon, they will find that the moon does not actually increase in size (as it appears to do) as it rises. Alternatively, students may curl their hand into a tunnel and observe the rising moon with and without this tube effect, or again, they can take time lapse photos of the moon and measure its diameter. In each case, there is an optical illusion because objects appear to be different sizes depending on the relative size and perceived nearness of the background. This real-world, discrepant event experience along with other perceptual illusions of Earth-bound observers lead us to faulty predictions about astronomical relationships. Also, ask students to use the Internet or reference books to bring to class the actual equatorial diameters for the Earth and the moon for the next lesson.
EXPLORE:
Form small cooperative groups with calculators for every individual to devise procedures for addressing the following question:
Focus Question #2: Given the actual equatorial diameters for the Earth and the moon (12,756 km and 3476 km), what means can we devise to determine which two-sphere combination bests represent the actual relative sizes of the two objects?
a. In terms of diameter, how many times larger is the Earth than the moon? Devise a variety of non-destructive means of determining the diameter of the various spheres to find the best-matched pair. Possible approaches include: (1) use string and ruler or tape measure to measure the circumference and use the equation to C = p(d) to calculate d, (2) place an inkmark on the ball and roll it along a ruler to measure C directly, (3) place the ball on a ruler and sandwich the ball between two vertically placed and perfectly perpendicular books that rest on the ruler; measure diameter, (4) use an Invicta giant metric caliber (ETA, #MX-547/$26.95), and (5) use published reference materials to find regulation dimensions of the balls (see data provided below).
b. In terms of volume how many times larger is the Earth than the moon? [Answer: (3.67)3 = 49.4]. Devise a variety of means of determining (or estimating) the volume of the various spheres. Possible approaches include: (1) for small, denser-than-water golf balls, simple water displacement in a large graduated cylinder or beaker, (2) similarly, the ping pong ball and other lighter than water balls can be submerged with heavy weights of known volume, (3) larger lighter-than-water balls can be submerged in a filled bucket of water equipped with an overflow lip and catch basin, (4) hollow, relatively fixed-shaped balls (ping pong, racquet and handballs, tennis balls), can be sliced in half or have holes drilled in them to fill with water. Note: (a) this measure of internal volume will be somewhat less than external volume depending on the thickness of the balls skin and (b) this approach would also result in a low estimate for inflated balls such as volleyballs, soccer balls and basketballs, and (5) use the formulas: radius = diameter/2 and Volume = 4/3 p (r3)
Optional Mathematical Excursions: Exponential Notation and Analogies for Millions:
Both the diameter of the Earth and its moon are measured in millions (106) of meters. Practice with exponential notation and visual representations and analogies can make the concept of orders of magnitude less abstract. The childrens book How Much is a Million by David M. Schwartz & Steve Kellogg (1985) suggests a variety of ways of conceptualizing a million, such as: a fish bowl big enough to hold a million goldfish, would be large enough to hold a 60 foot whale. Challenge students to come up with their own representations for a million. A simple model that can be displayed on the classroom walls is dots (as many as 4000-5000) on standard 11 x 8 1/2 stationary (for a total of 250 - 200 pages to represent 1 million). Additionally, the Powers of Ten CD-ROM, videotape and books present a visualizing stunning look at the relative size of things in the universe from 1025 to 10-16 meter scale known to modern science.
EXPLAIN:
Pull the work groups back together to share their results. The following data table compiled from a mixture of published data (Microsoft (R) Encarta CD ROM Encyclopedia. Copyright (c) 1994), actual measurements, and derived calculations can be shared for comparisons. If desired, students can be asked to check various textbook pictures of the Earth-moon system to see if the 3.67:1 ratio of diameters is accurately depicted. The activity of looking at textbook representations will also set them up for a fall on the subsequent Elaboration activity.
Table 1
ATHLETIC BALL DIMENSIONS
Ball Circumference Diameter Radius Volume__________
Basketball 76.0 cm 24.2 cm 12.1 cm 7413 cm3
Soccer 71.0 cm 22.6 cm 11.3 cm 6044 cm3
Volleyball 68.6 cm 21.8 cm 10.9 cm 5425 cm3
Softball 30.5 cm 9.71 cm 4.85 cm 478 cm3
Baseball 23.0 cm 7.32 cm 3.66 cm 205 cm3
Tennis 20.9 cm 6.65 cm 3.33 cm 155 cm3
Racquetball 17.9 cm 5.70 cm 2.85 cm 97.0 cm3
Handball 15.0 cm 4.76 cm 2.38 cm 56.5 cm3
Golf Ball 13.4 cm 4.27 cm 2.135 cm 40.8 cm3
Ping-Pong 12.0 cm 3.81 cm 1.905 cm 29.0 cm3 ____________________________________________________________________
Table 2
EARTH-MOON DIMENSIONS & ATHLETIC BALL SCALE EQUIVALENTS
Diameter of Larger Object Diameter of Smaller Object Ratio Large/Small
Earth 12756 km Moon 3476 km 3.67/1
Basketball 24.2 cm Tennis ball 6.65 cm 3.64/1
Volleyball 21.8 cm Racquetball 5.7 cm 3.82/1
_____________________________________________________________________
ELABORATE:
To formatively assess whether students understand the basic idea of relative sizes (i.e., scale) and to return to and extend the original Focus Question #1 [Do you feel textbook drawings accurately reflect either the relative sizes of or distances between objects within our solar system?], ask for two student volunteers to assist you with the following:
Participatory Demonstration: Using the basketball (= Earth) and tennis ball (= moon) scale models agreed upon in the Explain phase, ask the two students to hold the balls so they are nearly touching. Ask the class if this represents the proper, scaled distance between the two. Ask the two students to slowly move apart and have students raise their hands when they think the proper orbiting distance has been reached. Most students will raise their hands long before the approximately 30 basketball measures that should separate the two balls on this scale. To achieve the 30 basketball separation, you will probably need to take the students into the hallway (or use a diagonal in the classroom).
Focus Question #3: Given an average (i.e., orbit is not perfectly circular) Earth-moon distance of 384,400 km , calculate:
(a) how far the tennis ball Moon should be placed from the basketball Earth,
(b) how many basketball Earth diameters this distance represents (Ans.: 384,400km Earth-Moon separation/12,756 km Earth diameter= 30.1), and
(c) could a textbook of typical dimensions physically show both the relative size and relative distance of the Earth-moon system within the confines of a two-page layout? Explain your answer with appropriate mathematics. (Answer: Yes, assuming a 40 cm two page layout, a 0.25 cm diameter Moon, a 1 cm Earth and a 30 cm separation between the circles). To our knowledge, no textbook on the market attempts to do this. If one wants to represent the full orbit of the moon around the Earth, the scale would need to be reduced to a 1 mm diameter Moon. Scale drawings of the orbits of other bodies in the solar system are not possible within the confines of textbook dimensions. Unfortunately, few if any textbooks tell students that they have to misrepresent scale given the fact that outer space is mainly empty with immense distances between celestial bodies (nor do they provide scaling exercises for students to get a more accurate sense of this). Accordingly, students walk away from instruction with an impoverished, underestimation of the full wonder of the universe and our place in it.
Supplemental, Optional Videotape Resource: Bill Nye, the Science Guy episodes related to Solar System: #6 Gravity, #11 Moon, #15 Earths Seasons, #33 Sun, #41 Planets & Moons, #80 Time, #82 Space Exploration, & #95 Comets & Meteors. Available for purchase from Disney Educational Productions (1 -800-295-5010); Iindividual titles (1 tape - 2 programs/episodes = 49 minutes): $49.95.
EVALUATE
The point about the relative emptiness of space can be brought home to students by having them do the following:
(1) Design and construct a handheld, scale model of the Earth-moon system. The following model works quite well: 122 cm long/2.3 cm diameter dowel rod with two holes separated by 117 cm. A ping pong ball (Earth; d =3.81 cm) is glued to the top of one 8 cm stick and a 1 cm wooden bead (Moon) on the top of another. This a nice construction activity for the technology class and the models that are built can be used by the science class to demonstrate (outdoors on a clear, sunny day) differential lighting on various portions of the Earth (i.e., day vs nighttime areas of the globe), the phases of the moon, etc.
(2) Given the mean distances from various planets to the sun and the equatorial diameters of the various planets (have students obtain the data from the Internet sites such as those on Table 3 or conventional references), design a scale model of our solar system that reflects both relative sizes and interplanetary distances and will fit on: (a) a standard roll of toilet paper, (b) adding machine taper, or (b) a football field.
(3) Other FUNdaMENTAL scaling problems or extensions:
(a) If the sun was a sphere 6 feet in diameter (just over an average adults height),
which body part would represent Jupiter, the largest planet (Answer: persons head) and Earth (Answer: the iris of an eye)?
(b) Research the mathematics-science-technology that enables scientists to measure the sizes of and distances between the planets. How long have such techniques been available? How do the data from modern methods compare to that available 70 years ago (consider the Hubble Deep Field telescope)? Note: the technology of space flight enables an observer on the Moon to see a full Earth as a disk approximately four times as large as a full Moon seen from the vantage point of Earth. Of course, far more precise, but less awesome measurements techniques are also available.
(4) Check the accuracy of other scale models of the solar system (Packard, 1994).
(5) Rewrite the lyrics to popular moon songs to directly confront and correct the common misconceptions that were explored in this 5E Teaching Cycle.
(6) Develop, administer and analyze a school-wide survey of students and/or parents to see how common these and other astronomical misconceptions are.
Following the Evaluation Phase, this 5 E Teaching Cycle would subsequently serve as a lead into additional units that focused on concepts such as the phases of the moon, causes for the seasons, causes of eclipses, the law of universal gravitation, age, size and origin of the universe, etc., to help students see that the truth is far more wonderful than their fictional views and imaginations.
_____________________________________________________________________________
Table 3
HotSpots for Cool Science Astronomy Internet Sites
Astronomical Society of the Pacific:
http://www.astrosociety.org/education/astro/astropubs/universetoc.html
Comparing Earth & Its Planetary Neighbors (free Mac Hypercard stack download):
http://www.stsci.edu/exined/Comparing.html
Eames Office (Powers of Ten resources): http://www.eamesoffice.com/.
Earth & Moon Viewer: HYPERLINK "http://www.fourmilab.ch/" http://www.fourmilab.ch/
NASA Office of Education Homepage: http://education.nasa.gov/home/index.html
Nine Planets: A Multimedia Tour of Solar System: http://www.seds.org/billa/tnp/
Solar System Dynamics Group of the Jet Propulsion Lab: http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/
_____________________________________________________________________________
References
American Association for the Advancement of Science. Benchmarks for science literacy: Project 2061. (1993). NY: Oxford University Press. (http://project2061.aaas.org/tools/index.html).
Astronomical Society of the Pacific Catalog. (1999). Sample resources: Giant Moon Map (42" x 38"). ( AP 800 $8.95), Powers of Ten CD-ROM (for Mac & Windows/ST 162/$79.95), videotape (VT 110/$39.95), book (BO 182/$19.95 ),and flipbook (BO 183/$9.95) and Universe at Your Fingertips: An Astronomy Activity & Resource Notebook. (BO 122/ $34.95).
Morrison, P. & Morrison, P., & the Office of Charles & Ray Eames. (1994). Powers of ten: About the relative size of things in the universe. NY: Scientific American Library/W.H. Freeman Co.
Packard, E. (1994). Imagining the universe : A visual journey. NY: Perigee Books.
Schwartz, D.M. & Kellogg, S. (1985). How much is a million. NY: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.
Trowbridge, L.W., Bybee, R.W., & Carlson Powell, J. (2004/8th ed.). Teaching secondary school science: Strategies for developing scientific literacy. Columbus, OH: Merrill.
FAR-OUT INTERPLANETARY COMPARISONS
Body Equatorial Diameter Body Mean Distance from Sun
------------------------------------ ---------------------------------------------------
Mercury 4,800 km Mercury 57,900,000 km
Pluto 6,000 km Venus 108,000,000 km
Mars 6,787 km Earth 149,600,000 km (1 AU)
Venus 12,104 km Mars 229,000,000 km
Earth 12,756 km Jupiter 779,000,000 km
Neptune 49,500 km Saturn 1,427,000,000 km
Uranus 51,800 km Uranus 2,871,000,000 km
Saturn 120,000 km Neptune 4,496,000,000 km
Jupiter 142,800 km Pluto 5,913,000,000 km
Sun 1,393,900 km
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