Outreach Workshop: The Universe
The program begins with an astronomy "orientation" that features lively demonstrations to illustrate the concepts that are important to understanding the study of the stars and ends inside our portable, inflatable planetarium known as StarLab.
Fees are determined by distance from the Museum:
- Within 25 miles: $340
- 26-50 miles: $370
- 51+ miles: $370 + $.54 per mile
- Each additional hour: $125
The Universe Requirements
- Maximum capacity of approximately 25 students plus 2 adults
- Requires a room separate from all other activities
- Minimum ceiling clearance of 12 ft
- Minimum floor space of 25 ft x 25 ft
- Requires inside location with a grounded outlet
Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations, Science v.1.09
- Identify the sun as the most important source of heat which warms the land, air, and water of the Earth. (E.ES.01.11)
- Identify the force that pulls objects towards the Earth. (P.FM.03.22)
- Identify the sun and moon as common objects in the sky. (E.ST.04.11)
- Compare and contrast the characteristics of the sun, moon and Earth, including relative distances and abilities to support life. (E.ST.04.12)
- Describe the orbit of the Earth around the sun as it defines a year. (E.ST.04.21)
- Explain that the spin of the Earth creates day and night. (E.ST.04.22)
- Describe the motion of the moon around the Earth. (E.ST.04.23)
- Explain how the visible shape of the moon follows a predictable cycle which takes approximately one month. (E.ST.04.24)
- Describe the apparent movement of the sun and moon across the sky through day/night and the seasons. (E.ST.04.25)
- Explain the apparent motion of the stars (constellations) and the sun across the sky. (E.ST.05.23)
The Universe Pre-visit Vocabulary
Astronomy: A laser is a focused beam of light.
Constellation: A group of stars in which someone saw a picture.
East: The direction of the rising sun.
Gas: One of the three states of matter, where molecules are spread apart.
Moon: A celestial body that revolves around the earth.
North: The direction of the north magnetic pole.
Planetarium: A device that shows the movement of the stars and planets.
Satellite: A celestial body that orbits a planet; a moon.
Solar System: The sun and all that revolves around it.
South: The direction opposite north.
Star: A ball of gas.
Sun: The star at the center of our solar system.
West: The direction of the setting sun.
Zenith: The point in the sky directly overhead.
The Universe Post-visit Activity
Post-visit activities provide your students with an opportunity to review workshop-presented concepts and introduce related subjects. Below you will find a classroom extension activity and a list of suggested resources for further exploration. We hope that you enjoyed our Outreach Hands-On Workshop and we look forward to visiting your students again!
Hands-On Activity: Get Lost, Gravity!
- Plastic Cup
- Modeling clay
- Cut the string to be 24 inches long.
- Tape one end of the string to one side of the mouth of the cup. Tape the other end to the side opposite on the mouth of the cup. (They should be set across from each other).
- Cut a new piece of string to be 6 inches long.
- Tie the 6-inch piece of string to the center of the longer length of string.
- Mold a clay ball approximately ½ inch diameter around the hanging length of the shorter string.
- Ask your friend to hold your cup up above their heads by pinching the string where the short string is tied to the longer string.
- Go sit on a chair a few feet away from your friend where you can watch both the cup and the clay ball fall.
- Predict what will happen to both the ball and the cup as they fall.
- On your “GO!” have your friend let go of the string.
- Watch the ball and cup as they fall. Repeat the activity to verify your results.
You should have noticed that while the cup and ball were falling, they stayed the same distance apart until the cup hit the floor. This is because both the clay ball and the cup were falling at the same speed. The cup was being pulled down by gravity (the natural force of attraction between any two objects, directly proportional to the masses and indirectly proportional to the distances of the falling objects), but the ball was experiencing a feeling of zero gravity. Falling objects experience an apparent weightlessness because there is next-to-nothing (only a few gas molecules in the environment) pressing against the object.
Astronauts in space can experience apparent weightlessness as they orbit Earth in their spacecraft. In orbit, both an astronaut and the spacecraft are constantly falling around the Earth. When you ride in a roller coaster you may feel zero gravity when the ride goes down very steep hills.
The truth of the matter is that gravity will never be totally absent. The pull of an object on another object is always present – even when the objects are very far apart, like in outer space. The strength of a gravitational pull may appear very weak between you and a banana compared to the strength of the gravity between you and the Earth – but the gravitational pull still exists!
Cole, Joanna. The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System. Scholastic, Inc. 1992.
Evert, Laura. Planets, Moons and Stars (Take-Along Guides). Creative Publishing International. 2003.
Heifetz, Milton D. A Walk through the Heavens: A Guide to Stars and Constellations and their Legend. Cambridge UP. 1998.
Kerrod, Robin. The Book of Constellations: Discover the Secrets in the Stars. Barrons Educational Series. 2002.
Rabe, Trisha. There’s No Place Like Space (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library). Random House. 1999.
Rey, H.A. Find the Constellations. Houghton-Mifflin, Co. 1976.
Thompson, C.E. Glow-In-The-Dark Constellations: A Field Guide for Young Stargazers. Grosset & Dunlap. 1999.
VanCleave, Janice. Janice VanCleave’s Astronomy for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work. John Wiley & Sons. 1991.