Birth of Planets
This learning module and related laboratory exercise exposes students to Solar Nebular Theory, planetary body classification, and planet differentiation. Students will be able to compare and contrast the formation history of Mars and Earth as well as confidently assess the present classification of the planet Pluto.
Students will be able to:
- Observe the birth of our solar system through video and recognize processes at work.
- Explain why elements condense at different distances from the sun using JELL-O 1-2-3 as an analogy
- Engage in a positive interactive debate regarding the classification of Pluto and in written format express their view competently using current scientific theory and resources.
Context for Use
This learning module is meant for adaptation in an introductory earth science course and/or planetary science course. Students do not need any previous knowledge to be successful in the activities offered in this module.
Description and Teaching Materials
Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework
- In-class Activity 1: Differentiation of Planets & JELL-O 1-2-3
Teaching Notes and Tips
JELLO 1-2-3 Analogy
- Small class size <20: have JELLO ingredients made up and ready for disbursement at end of class for at Homework.
- Large class size >20: have both ingredients and one pre-made JELLO cup for students to analyze and develop an analogy for planet differentiation
- Prior to class assign students to either the Affirmative or Negative team so students have a chance to develop an argument. OR
- During class, allow students 10-15min to develop an argument
- We have found it very beneficial to invite a guest lecturer from the Physics department to present this material. Students responded well with a myriad of questions.
- The JELLO 1-2-3 recipe is quite fickle and may not always form 3 layers. Allow some time to figure the recipe out.
- After in-class debate, students will write up a short 1 page cited discussion paper on their opinion regarding the classification of Pluto (see link for paper guidelines). Make sure students include and discuss the current planetary classification scheme.
- Students will develop an analogy, as a class, between JELL-O 1-2-3 and planetary differentiation
References and Resources
- Birth of the solar system video (National Geographic): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1AXbpYndGc
- Solar Nebular Theory and animation: http://atropos.as.arizona.edu/aiz/teaching/nats102/mario/solar_system.html
- Planetary Differentiation and Planet Comparison Overview: http://nineplanets.org/overview.html
- Jello 1-2-3 recipe: http://gourmetish.blogspot.com/2006/10/jello-1-2-3.html
- Mars vs. Earth size research: Brandon, Alan 2011. Nature 473, 460–461 (26 May 2011) doi:10.1038/473460a
- Pluto and Planetary Body Classification : http://www.iau.org/public/pluto/
- New Horizon Probe to Pluto NASA Video (see homepage for link) : http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html