Enabling students to understand and analyse contemporary issues in science and technology

Activities for The Universe

Here are activities to help with the teaching of this topic.

So you think the Earth is round?
A quick look at the evidence for a flat Earth and a round Earth to introduce: theory, predictions from the theory and the observations used to falsify or support a theory.
Teacher notes and student sheets (430 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (34 KB)

Stars, wanderers and the cycles of life
A set of 7 powerpoint slides showing beautiful images of the solar system with discussion points suggesting the important influences it exerts on our lives.
Powerpoint presentation (3.5 MB)

People of influence
Students research and report on the roles of some key figures, following a trail from early Greeks through the Arabic world during the European dark ages to the world-changing contribution of Copernicus. They learn how to redraft their reports in the light of comments.
Teacher notes and student sheets (500 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (81 KB)

Lss 50 PixLSS: Presenting a review using Photostory
Photo-movies are a powerful means for students to create presentations. In this activity students create a brief presentation on ancient explanations about the universe, and discuss the value of presenting as a way of learning.
Teacher notes and student sheets (692 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (99 KB)

Lss 50 PixLSS: Evaluating presentations
Having done the preparation, students deliver their presentations to a group of their peers as part of a guided evaluation exercise. This activity encourages students to think about the process of giving feedback when they are evaluating other students’ presentations.
Teacher notes and student sheets (0.8 MB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (103 KB)

Imperfect heavens
A set of powerpoint slides showing images of the Moon, Sun and Venus as an introduction to the importance of Galileo’s work.
Powerpoint presentation (3.1 MB)

What did Galileo See?
Students construct a simple ‘Galilean’ telescope and use it to make and record observations of an image of the moon. The activity provides a good demonstration of how ideas are dependent on technologies.
Teacher notes and student sheets (543 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (462 KB)

So you think the Earth goes round the Sun?
The activity looks at key evidence from observation of the phases of Venus, with a final part that has a similar structure to that of ‘So, you think the Earth is round’. It again deals with the nature of theory, prediction and observation, providing a revisit to these sophisticated ideas.
Teacher notes and student sheets (4.6 MB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (171 KB)

The truth game
The activity deals with the key words that are necessary for an understanding of how science works. Students assign examples from this topic to six different categories, such as observation, law or theory.
Teacher notes and student sheets (367 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (57 KB)

Giants
Students have already looked at the contributions of Copernicus and Galileo, but it could be argued that it was Kepler’s contribution that completed the triumph of the heliocentric view, and it was only this that made the Copernican revolution a lasting one that would influence Isaac Newton and others so strongly. In this activity students compare these ‘giants.
Teacher notes and student sheets (288 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (32 KB)

Science predicts – it’s what it’s good at
The discovery of Neptune, like other discoveries that have disputed credit, makes a good ‘human interest’ story that also deals with the science. In this activity students have to imagine the different arguments used by two scientists to explain the movement of Uranus, before Neptune was discovered. They then go on to explore disputed credit in another case of their choice.
Teacher notes and student sheets (3.6 MB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (129 KB)

The changing solar system
Our understanding of the solar system is still changing. This is an activity that encourages students to research some of this new information and extract a few key points in the way that a journalist does.
Teacher notes and student sheets (421 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (37 KB)

How far away
This is a two part activity. The first part is a practical activity looking at the use of parallax to determine distance. The second part uses the ‘Powers of Ten’ resources to introduce the almost impossible task of imagining the very large numbers involved. There is then an exercise using standard form to express the sizes of different objects in the Universe.
Teacher notes and student sheets (661 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (75 KB)

Hubble – the biggest pictures ever
This activity takes advantage of the wondrous collection of images on the NASA Hubble Gallery website, and asks students to sort objects according to distance to prepare a display.
Teacher notes and student sheets (516 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (49 KB)

Sharing the Universe
The textbook provides a concise account of the key points in the development of the idea that our Galaxy is not the entire Universe. There is a lot for students to learn and digest. This study skills activity provides every student with a record of key information, but avoids their having to work alone through all of the relevant textbook pages.
Teacher notes and student sheets (378 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (37 KB)

The origin of the Universe
This activity is in two parts. In the first students look at some predictions made by the Big Bang theory and use the textbook and internet to see whether observations match these predictions. In the second they consider the basic ideas of the Big Bang through a partly scripted dialogue that is modelled on Galileo’s dialogues, but transposed to modern setting.
Teacher notes and student sheets (422 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (55 KB)

Questions, questions
Thinking about the Universe raises many questions, some are or will one day be answerable by science, some not. In the first part of this activity students discuss these questions, in the second part they use the PEEP resources to think about ‘space, the Universe and religion’ and review some of their knowledge about the Universe.
Teacher notes and student sheets (388 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (40 KB)

Exam style question - Dark matter
This question is about how a theory was modified to accommodate new data.
Teacher notes and student sheets (415 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (40 KB)

Exam style question - The Big Bang
This question is mainly about developing and testing scientific explanations.
Teacher notes and student sheets (431 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (40 KB)

Review
A collective activity to produce revision materials for the topic.
Teacher notes and student sheets (404 KB)
Teacher notes and student sheets (30 KB)