For use in grades 6, 7, or 8 to meet astronomy and earth science standards; integration with mathematics, history, and technology.

This semester of science focuses on a linear exploration of our universe. Students begin by exploring the history of astronomical thought, our current understanding of the universe, the structure of the solar system, and ending with a study of our home planet, Earth.

The goals of this semester of science are to introduce students to astronomy and earth science through their origins, thereby making the curriculum relevant and meaningful for students.

Guiding question: How do science and mathematics impact society, culture, and progress?

Through a study of the historical, mathematical, astronomical, geological, and physical aspects of our understanding of the origins of the universe, movement within our solar system, the characteristics of the planets in our solar system, and the unique characteristics of planet earth, students will understand the interconnectedness of all subjects and their impact on our understanding of ourselves.



Below is a general overview of the order in which I like to arrange these lessons. However, the lessons are fairly stand-alone and can be supplemented with additional materials or used independently of the entire unit. The general sequence is: the history or astronomy; understanding the geocentric solar system; the scientific revolution; understanding the heliocentric solar system; classical mechanics; understanding the universe; understanding our solar system.

Lesson Title
Time Required
Introduction to a Tour of the Universe
45 minutes
History of Science (HoS)
Aristotle and Ptolemy: Trying to make a geocentric model work
230 minutes
Retrograde Motion Activity
345 minutes
Astronomy, Earth Science
The Renaissance and Leonardo da Vinci
445-60 minutes
HoS, Engineering, Arts
Nicolaus Copernicus: Proposing a Geocentric Solar System
45 minutes
HoS, Astronomy
Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo A Burst of Ideas
6a30 minutesHoS, Astronomy
Ellipses6b (optional)
30 minutes
Math, Astronomy
The Universe and Planetary Motion
7a 45 minutes
HoS, Astronomy, Physics, Earth Science
Centripetal Motion7b (optional)
45 minutes
Physics, Earth Science, Astronomy
Centripetal Motion Cont'd (There is an impressionistic version and a physics-based version of this lesson)7c
30-60 minutesPhysics, Earth Science
Movement of Earth in the Solar System820 minutes (+ 30 minutes for Lab)
Astronomy, Earth Science
Magnitude of the Solar System
9a (optional)
30 minutes
Magnitude of the Solar System
45-60 minutes
Astronomy, Math
The Sun
1030 minutesAstronomy
The Terrestrial Planets (ex. Earth)
30-45 minutes
Earth and the Phases of the Moon
30-45 minutes
Astronomy, Earth Science
Eratosthenes and Measuring the Earth
30-45 minutes
Astronomy, Earth Science Math, HoS
The Gas Giants
30-45 minutes
Introduction to Motion
30-45 minutes
Newton & Universal Law of Gravitation
30-45 minutes
Physics, Earth Science, Astronomy
Newton's First Two Laws of Motion
30-45 minutes
Physics, Earth Science
Newton's Third Law of Motion
& Space Rockets
17a30-45 minutes
Physics, Earth Science, Astronomy
Bottle Rockets
17b (optional)
30 min. - 2 hours
Physics, Earth Science, Engineering
Earth's Atmosphere
30-45 minutes
Earth Science
The Space Program and Current Exploration
30-45 minutes
Earth Science, Astronomy
The Search for Extraterrestrial Life
30-45 minutes
Earth Science, Astronomy

Standards Alignment

  • Students will be able to explain and provide evidence for the motion of the planet, the seasonal changes of the planet and the composition of the atmosphere, and will be able to distinguish and find relationships between explanation and evidence for each. [National Science Education Standards Chapter 6 (NSES) A]
  • Students will show they understand the role of Earth in the solar system, the distinctions between Earth and the other planets, and the role of the sun in the solar system. [NSES C]
  • Students will experience the role of technology on our understanding of the solar system and the movement of the planets through video footage, images, and the role of telescopes on our understanding of astronomy. [NSES F]
  • Students will demonstrate their understanding of the history of astronomy and meteorology, as we know it today. [NSES G]
  • Students will differentiate between historical facts and historical interpretations. [National Standards for History Basic Edition – Historical Thinking Standards, 1996 (NSH – HTS) 2]
  • Students will consider multiple perspectives and compare and contrast differing sets of ideas. [NSH – HTS 3]
  • Students will gather and analyze evidence of antecedent circumstances, identify relevant historical antecedents, and formulate a position or course of action in an issue of the scientific revolution. [NSH – HTS 5]
  • Students will be able to explain and provide evidence for the layers of the earth system, and will be able to distinguish and find relationships between explanation and evidence for each. [NSES A]
  • Students will show they understand the role of each Earth layer in the Earth System [NSES C]
  • Students will understand the Newtonian Laws of physics that govern classical mechanics and the affect of gravity as a universal force. [NSES B]
  • Students will describe the role of technology in our understanding of the systems on Earth. [NSES F]
  • Students will describe the contribution of mathematics to the scientific revolution. [NCTM Principles and Standards for School MathematicsConnections]

Goals for students...

  • To understand the history of the scientific revolution and current space exploration
  • To understand current astronomical thinking about our universe and the solar system
  • To understand the conditions that favor life on this planet
  • To understand the conditions that prevent life on other planets in our solar system
  • To understand the magnitude of distance in space and express that magnitude accurately
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