Try This Out of This World Lesson Plan With Tech-Savvy Students

Students use cell phones to learn about the solar system and animate their own planets.

Students use cell phones to learn about the solar system and animate their own planets.

By Matt Cook

The United States crashed a rocket into the moon last fall and discovered the presence of ice under its surface. With this recent discovery, is it possible for life to exist there?

Students use cell phones to learn about the solar system and animate their own planets.

The United States crashed a rocket into the moon last fall and discovered the presence of ice under its surface. With this recent discovery, is it possible for life to exist there?

    • Lesson Description: For a lesson on exploring the solar system, I piloted the use of cell phones by students to create an animation of a planet of their own creation. Students use software to create images and place text in a frame-by-frame environment. These images appear to be animated when played at a fast speed.

      Students had to name their planets and address the following points for their presentations:

      • Use vocabulary terms axis, gravity, lunar cycle, revolve and rotate
      • Identify the physical characteristics of the Earth and compare them with the physical characteristics of the moon
      • Identify gravity as the force that keeps planets in orbit around the sun, and the moon in orbit around the Earth
      • Draw and label what the student's planet orbits around. What solar system or galaxy is it part of?
      • How does the planet compare with Earth? Does it have life, air, rocks, water, craters or landforms? How hot or cold is it? Could you live there?

    • Subject Area: This project was designed for fifth-grade science students. We used smartphones, GoKnow Sketchy and Microsoft Word. Sketchy is a drawing and animation tool that allows slides to be built frame by frame utilizing a stylus or the phone keyboard. The software allows users to create colorful displays that come to life and allow students to demonstrate what they've learned. Google Docs can also be used to create stories and collaborate; students can form solar system groups and write the story of how their solar system came to be, describing the various parts.

    • Curriculum Standards: Texas requires fifth-graders to understand and make comparisons between the Earth and the moon, as well as gain an understanding of orbits, rotations, years, days and seasons.

  • Grading Rubric:
    • Explanation of time (seasons, length of day): 20 points
    • Vocabulary terms clearly used in context: 20 points
    • Visual appeal: 20 points
    • Story: 20 points
    • Comparison with Earth: 20 points

Teaching Tips

  • The vocabulary terms are a prerequisite for the project.
  • Have students form their own galaxy or solar systems, then re-create the assignment as a group, encompassing each student's individual planet.
  • Use Google Docs to collaborate and create stories.
  • Ask students to develop a travel brochure enticing visitors to come to their planet.
  • Have students write a story about how their planet began and was discovered.
Apr 05 2010

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