In this activity students will take on the role as a NASA employee on a mission to discover what resources humans need in order to survive on a planet outside of our solar system. Students will come up with a plan including a list of materials and resources needed to sustain life on another planet. They will need to compare each planet and determine which is most ready to support life.
Elementary and Middle School
This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:
- 3-5-ETS1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
- Scientific and Engineering Practices:
- Engaging in Argument from Evidence
- Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
By the end of this activity, students should be able to
- Discuss the physical characteristics of each planet
- Recognize and list each planet by name
- Understand how plants and other living organisms grow
This activity supports students’ understanding of
- Physical Properties
- Chemical Properties
- The Solar System: Planets
- Plant life
Teacher Preparation: 30-45 minutes
Lesson: 3-5 days
- Computers with internet access (at least one per group)
- PowerPoint or Prezi (presentation software)
- Model of the solar system, pictures or information on each planet (links provided below)
- Poster board (optional)
- Venn diagrams comparing earth to each planet
- Markers/Colored pencils/Crayons
- No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.
- This activity is appropriate for 3rd-8th grade students.
- The Kid's Astronomy website will allow students to research each planet and compare each to planet Earth.
- You may find the Solar System scope website useful as well.
- The NASA website explains what real astronauts have used for sustaining life off of planet Earth.
- The BBC Science Clips website is great for lower level students who need a reminder of how plants grow.
- Students work best if they are each assigned a job with responsibilities and expectations. Download and print sample STEM job roles.
- Challenge Captain
- Materials Master
- Testing Coordinator
- Chief Architect
- Rapid Reporter
- Groups of 3-4 are highly encouraged.
- Students should have the option to present digitally or classically (with a poster board).
- The optional component of the project requirements, found on the student sheet, should be used for advanced students.
- Children who are at a higher level should be encouraged to include temperature and at least 5 interesting facts about the solar system incorporated into their presentation and/or they could also create a video commercial about moving to a new planet.
For the Student
In this lesson, you will take on the role of an astronaut for NASA. Your mission is to find a planet that is most like planet Earth. You will need to research each planet, looking for physical properties of each. In addition to researching the planets, you will also need to research what resources humans need to survive.
These vocabulary words should be studied before the activity. These are words that they will need to know for the activity. Define each in the space provided below:
- Solar system:
- You will play the role of an Astronaut. In this role, you are the person at NASA that is in charge of researching and gathering data on each planet to ultimately sustain life on another planet.
- You will need to research and identify the physical properties of each planet: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
- You will be in charge of presenting your findings in front of the NASA space exploration committee who are expecting to learn about the following:
- Temperature of the planet
- Weather and seasonal information of the planet
- A comparison of each planet to Earth
- What resources are needed to sustain life, and why they are necessary
- What types of gasses make up the atmosphere of this planet?
- Is there oxygen on the planet?
- (Optional) Determine the following: Mass, Diameter, Density, Distance from the Sun, Identify how long one day is in Earth days (Ex. 1 Mercurian Day= approximately 59 Earth days.
- Make a group decision on which presentation method to use: Poster or Digital
- Discuss and record your “know” and “need to know” using a T Chart with your group. Then, gather data/information and put it into a well-organized presentation.
- Refer to rubric for grading information.