The process of solar system formation...a topic we as teachers often teach using a diagram similar to the one on the left. We get the chance to talk about hot plasma (not giant balls of gas burning millions of miles away Pumba! 🐗), primordial planets, coalescence of gas and dust, the process of nuclear fusion....we could go on and on! One thing for sure, this is a topic that combines a ton of the physical sciences your students have learned in the past and transcends grade levels. We've seen this topic in middle school, high school, and college courses.
What if I told you (insert Morpheus gif here 🔴 🔵) that you could go beyond the diagram and have your students derive condensation temperatures and location of planets in our solar system and extrasolar planets using an interactive data collecting probe and graphing technique?
What if I also told you this experience was imagined and directed by ASU's Dr. Molly Simon, an assistant professor interested in the learning differences between students that engage in digital explorations vs those using traditional pencil and paper methods?
Now that we have your attention, some extra details on why YOU might want to keep this lab in your back pocket! 📌
- Learners are presented with a test object (1) that they then drop into the solar system (2) and is plotted on the graph (3). (Figure 1) Here they learn how to use the simulation and read the graph.
Figure 1: Explore - Test object drops in solar system to graph temperature and distance from the Sun
- Learners choose the type of materials they wish to investigate. (Figure 2)
Figure 2: Choose and Explore your materials
Learners then investigate where these materials will condense in the solar system using them as test objects and plotting them on the graph.
Figure 3: Predict materials
- From here, learners are tasked to predict the type of condensed materials that are present at each planet location (by AU) in our solar system (Figure 3), then test that prediction by placing the planets in their correct location in the solar system (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Prediction testing
Learners are now asked to explain what they have learned about the condensation temperatures as a predictor of the early solar system (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Explain
- Finally learners are asked to elaborate and apply what they've learned to an exoplanetary system (Figure 6).
Solar system formation not part of your curriculum? No worries! Got testing days coming up in the spring? Spring break? Sub days? These lessons are a great way to provide high quality content without the muss and fuss of a full on lesson plan and still slap (that's what the kids say, right) when you just need to fill time. You can share the lesson with students directly, enroll them in our LMS-lite version, or deploy it via Canvas, Blackboard, or Moodle.
Get started today and check out Solar System Formation.