Planetary Pointers and Science Smarts: Educating Middle Schoolers About Our Planet

Middle schoolers are too old to be cuddled but they’re not mature enough to have an adult discussion. Therefore, educators need to balance learning with fun as they allow middle schoolers to feel involved, and at times, in the lead role. Here’s how to provide planetary pointers to tweens.

Angels, Devils, and the Ozone

The media teaches kids to worry about harming the ozone layer, but few middle schoolers know what it is. Some adults don’t know that it could actually be harmful to living things at particular altitudes. Have kids build their own spectroscope from poster board, construction paper, and a CD or DVD.

Into the Unknown

How do astronauts know which instruments should accompany a spacecraft or satellite on a mission? This invites teachers to have students research machines and technology used by NASA. Furthermore, teachers can ask students how they would go about observing certain planets given the atmosphere, temperature, etc.

Land the Egg

Spacecrafts have to land on the moon, etc. Also, astronauts remotely operate crafts to travel to other planets, moons, and beyond. However, careful engineering goes into creating and flying aircraft. Have kids create a safety landing pod using grass, string, tape, and pieces of plastic to use as a parachute. See which team can create the safest landing pod for the passenger, an egg.

Draw the Clouds

Clouds take different shapes depending on weather and conditions. Have students look-up the technical names of clouds and then draw them on the board. Next, use a local weather app to view the weather conditions for the upcoming week and predict which clouds you will see. Then, see if the kids’ predictions come true.

Be Dr. Frankenstein

Ask students to get in groups and choose one of the planets in our solar system. Next, they are to create a creature that could live and thrive on that planet. What would the creature look like, how would they survive (If Earth ‘food’ could not grow, what would the creature eat?), and what would they do for entertainment?

Go with the Tide

Using bungee cord, have students mimic the ebb and flow of the tides. Since tides are dictated by the moon, have students represent celestial bodies too. If done right, those involved should be able to orchestrate the changing of the tides throughout the day and explain what’s happening.

Size the Planets

Using Google’s search engine, tape measure, and random things throughout the room, students need to replicate the size of the planets. For example, say Earth is represented by a golf ball. That means, in order to represent Uranus, they would need to find an object about 400% larger.

Fly the Craft

Using a smartphone, an overhead device, and an app, you could have kids take turns playing a flight simulation game. F-Sim Space Shuttle is free to download from the iTunes store. Have kids feel what’s it’s like to take off, fly, and land a shuttle.