Teacher’s Lesson Planner for BotU Posts

 Copyright 2011 | About this blog


I created this Blog with teachers and parents in mind. The goal for everything found here is to provide a creative new way of looking at science—conceptual understanding at an emotional level. I write each Post recognizing that if done well, teachers can use it as a lesson in the classroom.

This Teachers Lesson Planner is a listing of many of the Blog’s Posts cataloged by subject, and for each Post an outline provides information relevant for using the Post as a lesson.

To use this Planner, look at the Essential Question associated with each Post listed below. If it addresses something of interest to you, then read the associated Concepts, Objectives, Math Skills, and Special Features to get an idea of how you might introduce the Post in the classroom. Then click on the title to read the Post.

In each section below, the Posts are listed in order of date posted on Blog on the Universe. The date is provided next to the Post title.

Come back to this Lesson Planner Page to see lesson outlines of new Posts.

Important note on pedagogy: My fundamental approach to content in the Posts is a recognition that true understanding requires conceptual bridges to the familiar. To accomplish this, I make extensive use of the most powerful tools in science and science education—Rulers, Clocks, and Models. I’ve also ensured that the Concepts and Objectives addressed are directly relevant to National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy.

Important note on process: Each Post outlined below is characterized for good reason in terms of an Essential Question, Concepts employed, and Objectives. This is the scientific method in its purest form. A scientist or engineer starts any exploration with a Question. Next (s)he needs to bring Core Knowledge to the problem at hand to frame a pathway to an answer—for a good inquiry-based science lesson this corresponds to the Concepts to be employed. The ultimate goal of the researcher is to answer the question and reveal New Knowledge—for a good science lesson this is the targeted Objective(s). For more details on my views—as both a scientist and a science educator—on the scientific method, the nature of inquiry, and the need for science education in the classroom to mirror science, read my essay on The Power of Models, one of the Blog’s many Resource Pages.

Important note on additional resources: Be sure to visit the Blog’s Resources for Teachers and Resources for Parents pages for more ideas on discussions in the classroom, program opportunities, and links to multimedia sites.

1. Global Warming, Climate Change, and the Earth Environment

Good Background: BotU Resource Page Global Warming & Climate Change

The Business Trip 2009-05-19

Essential questions: How far is ‘Outer Space’? What does this imply for the thickness of Earth’s atmosphere?

Concepts: the locations of orbiting space shuttle and space station; speed of shuttle and station; orbiting spacecraft are in outer space, above Earth’s atmosphere

Objective: to recognize that orbiting spacecraft are closer to the surface of Earth than you are to places you’ve traveled by car; given these spacecraft are in “outer space”, they are above the atmosphere—which must be nothing but a slender veil of air surrounding the planet.

Climate change point: we do not live under an ocean of air, but rather a slender fragile veil of atmosphere

Math skills: relation: distance = speed x time

Special features: includes a classroom activity using the web to: research geographic locations that are the same distance as outer space; online tracking of the shuttle and the space station to see when you can see them flying overhead, and recognize that you’re seeing an object far above Earth’s atmosphere.



Apples and You 2009-05-21

Essential question: How thick is Earth’s atmosphere?

Concepts: use of a physical model as a learning tool; the atmosphere supports life on Earth; human activity is changing the atmosphere; global warming

Objectives: to create a physical model of the atmosphere; to have an interdisciplinary discussion on global warming; to understand how astronauts perceive the atmosphere from space

Climate change point: you can make a simple model that shows how thin the atmospheric layer is surrounding Earth, and it is shockingly thin. This model provides a new perspective on the atmosphere’s fragility, and the need to protect it.

Math skills: ratios; measurement; experimental design

Special features: hands-on activity; interdisciplinary connections

Weekly Challenge 1: A Pound of Ants and the Capabilities of Intelligent Biomass 2009-05-26

Essential question: If humans are changing the environment on a global scale, then you might think the planet is overrun with people, and the human race must take up a lot of space. Does it? What can we learn from the answer?

Concepts: biomass: of ants, and of the human race; determining weight of an individual; world human population; how students can insure accuracy in information obtained from library and online research

Objective: to calculate the volume of space taken up by the human race, put the volume in a familiar context, and discuss what it means

Climate change point: the total volume of the human race is shockingly small. It is human technology that is changing the environment, which is the fundamental argument for a scientifically literate public that can make informed decisions about technology use.

Math skills: simple calculations; unit conversion; volume calculations

Special features: web research and how to do it; showcasing a scientist


Weekly Challenge 2: People People Everywhere 2009-06-02

Essential questions: How fast is the human population growing? What are the consequences?

Concepts: rate of world population growth; growth in population over defined periods of time, and relative to the populations of standard “rulers”, e.g, population of cities, states, and nations

Objective: to understand how fast world population is growing, and consider the consequences on a national level

Climate change point: world population is growing at a stunning rate, and the needs of increasing populations put severe stress on available resources and services—particularly in the age of global warming.

Math skills: concept of rates; calculation of rates and totals over time

Special features: use of US Census online World Population Clock; multi-disciplinary exploration of consequence of population growth regarding: agriculture, transportation, housing, energy, health, defense

A Day in the Life of the Earth: Understanding Human-Induced Climate Change 2009-06-13

Essential Question: What is the basic argument for Global Warming due to human activity?

Concepts: use of a a clock as a learning tool; geologic time; human lifetimes and generations; gradual versus catastrophic changes in the global environment

Objective: to understand that both global temperature and the concentration of carbon dioxide have increased over a period of time that is short relative to natural cycles, and these increases correlate with both an explosion in human population and use of human technology powered by fossil fuels over the last 150 years

Climate change point: global warming has the signature of a catastrophic event, and the introduction of  human technology on a global scale appears to be the source in plain sight.

Math skills: simple calculations; interpretation of data; reading graphs

Special features: foreword by Dr. Jim Hansen, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies; a classroom hands-on activity; cross-posted at the Huffington Post, The Climate Community, and the GLOBE Scientists’ Blog.

Firestorm in the Arctic: Al Gore Vindicated on Comments in

Copenhagen 2009-12-16

Essential question: Why is the quality of media reporting on climate change so important?

Concepts:

Objective:

Climate change point: as a planet, let’s explore and debate the global courses of action that can and should be considered based on what the data is telling us. And let’s do it with journalists recognizing the important role they play in keeping us all informed, the need for accurate reporting, and the sacred trust that that entails.

Math skills:

Special features: cross-posted at the Huffington Post, and The Climate Community.

2. Space Flight

Weekly Challenge 4: You Want Me to Do What With a Bathroom Scale? 2009-06-29

Essential question: Why are astronauts weightless in space?

Concepts: common knowledge regarding the characteristics of weightlessness; the force of gravity exists between any two objects; definition of weight

Objective: to address the deep misconception that weightlessness is due to a lack of gravity in space; to understand that astronauts APPEAR weightless because they are in a free-falling environment—the space shuttle

Math skills: none required

Optional math skills: relation: the Law of Universal Gravitation; calculating the weight of a person in orbit relative to their weight at sea level

Special features: a link to a powerful middle school lesson on weightlessness; Dr. Jeff’s full calculation of a person’s weight in orbit versus weight on the surface of Earth in a downloadable PDF.

TMN QuickLinks: Shuttle Atlantis in Orbit, Make it a Teachable Moment 2009-11-19

Essential question: When a space shuttle launches—how heavy, how fast, how far?

Concepts: the space shuttle is a massive vehicle in terms of both height and weight; on launch, the space shuttle undergoes a rapid increase in speed (acceleration); the shuttle is placed in orbit around the Earth just minutes after launch

Objective: to put the basic physics of a space shuttle launch concerning vehicle mass, speed, elapsed time, and altitude into easy to understand terms

Math skills: none required

Optional math skills: the relation (distance = speed x time) can be used to understand some of the quoted numbers

Special features: cross-posted at the Huffington Post.

3. History, Legacy, and the Future

Good Background: BotU Resource Page The National Air and Space Museum

Yesterday’s Launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Brings Back Memories of Apollo 11 2009-06-19

Essential question: What was it like to live through the flight of Apollo 11—the most historic voyage in the history of the human race?

Concepts: history is not ancient, it is alive and well, and look—there goes another second of history right now; history if told well, can be both powerful and emotional; history can inspire; we sent humans to the surface of the Moon, and people alive today remember the achievement

Objective: to help students understand—through one who lived it—the most monumental achievement in the history of the human race

Math skills: none required

Special features: space exploration and science embedded in an interdisciplinary tapestry of the human condition; links to relevant essays by Dr. Jeff, and additional resources, allowing teachers and parents to continue the journey with their classes and children; cross-posted at the Huffington Post.

SPECIAL POST: Where Were You During the Flight of Apollo 11? Remember and Share 2009-06-26

Essential question: What were the experiences of people that lived through the historic flight of Apollo 11?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features: cross-posted at the Huffington Post.



An Apollo 11 Personal Story 2009-07-16

Essential questions: What is it like to meet your hero? What is the nature of human exploration?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features:


Commentary on Blue-Ribbon Panel Exploring NASA’s Strategic Options for Human Space Flight 2009-08-13

Essential question: What should be the goal of human space flight?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features: cross-posted at the Huffington Post.

Shuttle Atlantis Home! Prompts Me to Look to America’s Future … and I’m Troubled 2009-11-27

Essential question: Is the end of the space shuttle era a symptom of a larger problem for America? Are we taking science and technology education seriously?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features: cross-posted at the Huffington Post.

Shuttle Endeavour About to Blast Off on its Second to Last Mission, Make it a Teachable Moment 2010-2-06

Essential question: How will the next generation view the era of the space shuttle?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features: cross-posted at the Huffington Post.

4. Size and Scale of Solar System Objects and Distances

Good Background: BotU Resource Page The Nature of Our Existence

My Really Long Drive with Jordi 2009-06-06

Essential question: How can we make Solar System sizes and distances (like the size of Earth, the size of the Sun, and distances to the Moon and Sun) understandable?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features:

If I Could Gift Wrap the Moon 2009-07-02

Essential question: How big is the Moon?

Concepts: the view of the Moon through a pair of binoculars is stunning; robotic spacecraft have recently been sent to the Moon; models are powerful learning tools

Objective: to create powerful conceptual and physical models of the size of the Moon, and the Earth-Moon system

Math skills: ratios: Moon diameter to Earth diameter; ratios: surface area of the Moon to area of Africa; ratios: Earth-Moon distance in units of Earth’s diameter

Optional math skills: relation: circumference = 2 x pi x r; relation: surface area of a sphere = 4 x pi x r2

Special features: interdisciplinary connections to human exploration; link to US Naval Observatory web site providing times of moonrise and moonset, to entice viewing of the Moon with binoculars with friends and family

Extra Wrapping Paper? Let’s Gift Wrap the Biggest ASTEROID. (oooh I’m so scared of the IAU) 2009-07-10

Essential question: How big is a large asteroid?

Concepts: Ceres was (or still is) the largest asteroid; Ceres is a Dwarf Planet; classes of Solar System objects have recently been renamed; conversations in science (or any subject) require clear definitions for terminology; models are powerful learning tools

Objective: to create a powerful conceptual model for the size of Ceres

Math skills: ratios: surface area of Ceres to area of Texas

Optional math skills: relation: surface area of a sphere = 4 x pi x r2

Special features: a link to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) web site where they ‘define’ Ceres, is it a good definition?

Weekly Challenge 5: Dr. Jeff’s Interplanetary Travel Agency 2009-07-13

Essential question: What does the sky look like from the surface of other worlds in our Solar System?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features:


Weekly Challenge 7: Spaceship Earth 2009-09-4

Essential question: How fast are you moving through space due to Earth’s rotation, Earth’s revolution around the Sun, and the Solar System’s revolution around the center of the Milky Way galaxy?

Concepts: Earth is in motion through space, therefore so are you; the Earth spins (rotates) once in a day; the Earth orbits (revolves around) the Sun once in a year; the Solar System orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy once in 225 million years

Objective: to determine how fast you are moving through space

Math skills: relation: circumference = 2 x pi x r; relation: speed = distance / time

Optional math skills: unit conversion; scientific notation

Special features: this post was a request from a teacher and her class; other post requests from teachers and their classes ARE WELCOME!

Happy New Year and Some Fun Facts 2010-1-01

Essential question: On New Year’s Day, what can you say about Earth, its orbit, and the passage of another year?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features:

5. Size and Scale of Galaxy and Universe

Good Background: BotU Resource Page The Nature of Our Existence


Weekly Challenge 3: What Can You Do With a Humongous Piece of Xerox Paper? 2009-06-15

MATH CONCENTRATION USING SPACE SCIENCE AS CONTENT

Essential questions: As I keep folding a sheet of paper in half, how rapidly does its thickness increase? How many folds to get a thickness as tall as the Empire State Building, or equal to  the distance to the Moon, or to the distance to the edge of the observable universe?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features: the front section of this post addresses the failings of mathematics education, and is cross-posted at the Huffington Post.


The Milky Way: Our City of Stars 2009-08-10

Essential question: How many stars are there?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features:


Weekly Challenge 6: Twilight Zone, the Missing Episode – “Today’s Special in the Cosmic Kitchen” 2009-08-17

MATH CONCENTRATION USING SPACE SCIENCE AS CONTENT

Essential question: If I stretched Earth out into a strand of Earth spaghetti, how thin would it be if it were to stretch across the observable universe?

Concepts:

Objective:

Math skills:

Special features:



Weekly Challenge 7: Spaceship Earth 2009-09-4

Essential question: How fast are you moving through space due to Earth’s rotation, Earth’s revolution around the Sun, and the Solar System’s revolution around the center of the Milky Way galaxy?

Concepts: Earth is in motion through space, therefore so are you; the Earth spins (rotates) once in a day; the Earth orbits (revolves around) the Sun once in a year; the Solar System orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy once in 225 million years

Objective: to determine how fast you are moving through space

Math skills: relation: circumference = 2 x pi x r; relation: speed = distance / time

Optional math skills: unit conversion; scientific notation

Special features: this post was a request from a teacher and her class; other post requests from teachers and their classes ARE WELCOME!


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One Response to “Teacher’s Lesson Planner for BotU Posts”

  1. katie Says:
    November 16th, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    good use of color in the writing my friend.

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