How Big, How Far, How Hot, How Old?

Contributor
Deborah Scherrer
Type Category
Assessment Materials
Types
Assessment Item
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

Participants use provided images of earth and space objects to arrange them in order of their size, their distance from Earth, their temperature, and/or their age. Through this work students represent and confront their mental models of space and time. This resource was developed by the Stanford SOLAR (Solar On-Line Activity Resources) Center in conjunction with NASA for informal audiences, but can be used in the classroom. 

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 5
  • Middle School
  • Informal Education
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

5-ESS1-1 Support an argument that differences in the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from the Earth.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to relative distances, not sizes, of stars. Assessment does not include other factors that affect apparent brightness (such as stellar masses, age, stage).

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This resource assists the teacher in knowing what mental models students have about size, distance, age and heat of objects. Knowing student’s ideas helps the teacher plan instruction towards this performance expectation. Each of the characteristics is assessed separately. The teacher would only need to know student’s ideas about size and distance to plan instruction that builds toward students’ ability to be proficient in this performance expectation. The parts of the resource that assess age or heat would not be needed for 5th grade. The teacher could use various methods to make student thinking more visible to both teachers and their peers. One way would be for students to be paired for discussion about their choices and reasoning behind them.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
This activity uses images of Earth and space objects to be arranged according to relative size, distance, age and heat. It formatively assesses students’ ideas about these characteristics and makes their mental models visible. An option given would be to cut apart the images and allow students to physically sort them according to the characteristic. The teacher might decide to substitute more familiar objects or to eliminate some of the images to make the assessment more manageable for students. For example, a space shuttle could be substituted for the less familiar Hubble telescope. When substituting objects, care would need to be taken to either substitute similar size or distant objects or to change the order of size or distance in the key. Students might also need to review distance and size measurements and terms – meters, kilometers, diameter, etc.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This activity uses images of Earth and space objects to be arranged according to size, distance, age and heat. It formatively assesses students’ ideas about these characteristics and makes their mental models visible. This information is helpful in planning instruction around the differences in size and distance of the Earth and sun. Many of the images are of objects in space and may not be familiar to students. The teacher might decide to substitute more familiar objects or to eliminate some of the images to make the assessment more manageable for students. Students might also benefit from viewing real-time videos of objects depicted in the pictures. This assessment was designed to be used from grade 5 to adult. Adults struggle with these concepts as well so it would not be expected for students to have a firm grasp of size and distance of these particular objects.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The first two parts of this resource assesses students’ ability to order Earth and space objects according to relative size and distance. This gives the teacher an idea of student thinking about size and distance of objects and distances that are very large (objects and distances that students cannot easily manipulate). After assessing, the teacher would be able to plan instruction to assist students in understanding basic concepts of relative magnitude in space science.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Use of this assessment gives the teacher an idea of student thinking around all three dimensions identified above. This will assist the teacher to design instruction that would build toward students’ ability to be proficient in the performance expectation.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource is an assessment and as such, does not have ideas for instructional activities. It does suggest that images may be changed to better meet the audience using the assessment. It also gives the option to either project the images or to cut them apart for sorting. Discussion ideas and questions are provided to further make student ideas visible.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The teacher could use this resource to assess students’ ideas about size and distance at the beginning and at the end of instruction to show progress after instruction. The resource states that getting the “right answer” is not as important as the critical thinking skills that students are developing as they struggle with their mental models.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not have technological components unless the images are projected on a screen which is not required.