Return of Halley's Comet
As the comet approaches,
an enormous amount of resource material will be available for teachers. We will
review the best of these in future issues. In the meantime, here is a selection
of good resources that are already available.
Chapman, R. and Brandt,
J.: The Comet Book: A Guide for the Return of Halleys Comet (1984, Jones
and Bartlett) — Excellent book for teachers, featuring comet science, comet lore,
and good suggestions for observing the comet.
Branley, F.: Comets
(1984, T.Y. Crowell) — good picture book for students in grades K-3.
Krupp, E.: The
Comet and You (1985. Macmillan) — an illustrated book for students grades
K-4; ready in February 1985.
Schatz, D.: The
Comet Cometh: An Activity Book for the Return of Comet Halley — (a teacher's
guide to be published in 1985).
for Teachers (or High-School Students):
Bortle, J.: "Brighter
Prospects for Halleys Comet'' in Sky and Telescope Jan. 1984, p. 9.
Glenn, W.: "Halley's
Comet Makes a Comeback'' in The Science Teacher Jan. 1984, p. 38.
"The Comet Fleet'' in Mercury, May/June 1984, p. 66.
Comets and Comet
Halley — A set of 31 slides and detailed captions by Dr. John C. Brandt of
NASA; produced by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
(Starsoft, P.O. Box 2524, San Anselmo, CA 95472; for IBM computers)
on Your Home Computer (S & T Software. 13361 Frati Lane, Sebastopol. CA
95472; for Apple computers)
(Both of these
provide information and plot the position of the comet).
illustrated catalog of useful educational materials in astronomy is available
from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (390 Ashton Ave., San Francisco,
CA 94112) and includes a number of the above resources.
by Dennis Schatz,
Pacific Science Center
(c) 1985 by Dennis
Schatz. While teachers may copy freely for classroom use no commercial reproduction
This activity is
ideal to enhance a unit concerning the solar system for grades 4-8. It helps
students learn about the planets and moons, uses their language and art skills,
encourages use of library resources, and promotes creative thinking.
The purpose of the
activity is to encourage students to learn about the planets through an enjoyable
project that encourages their creativity. The scientific accuracy of their Alien
Beings may not be as important as the learning and reasoning processes they go
through as they construct their alien.
- To construct
a model of an Alien Being that could exist on another planet or satellite
in our solar system.
- Any common items
found around the house.
Paper and pencil
Place the name
of each planet or satellite the class will be studying (except the Earth) on
separate slips of paper. Make enough slips so there is one for each student
in the class. Place the slips of paper in a hat or box and have each student
pick a world. The students should not reveal to other members of the class which
world they have.
Tell the students
that their goal is to construct the model of an Alien Being that could live
on the world they picked. These should be three-dimensional models made from
any material they can find around the house. Give the students a week to ten
days to complete the task. Ask them also to write half-page to one page descriptions
of their Alien Beings, stating why they have the characteristics the students
have selected. The day you assign the project is an appropriate time to discuss
what some of the requirements are for a "Being'' to exist on a given world.
These should include:
You may find this
is a good discussion to have again after they have researched the nature of their
worlds, but before they actually start constructing their Alien Beings.
- a means to get
- possibly a way
to move around the planet
- a way to breathe
- other means
to sense the environment, equivalent to our five senses
- other suggestions
they may have, such as the effects of a gravitational pull that is much larger
or smaller than we experience
This activity will
require that the students use the library resources available at the school
and in the community to determine the characteristics of the planets. If possible
you should examine what references the libraries in your area have. Good resources
On the day that the
Alien Beings are due, they can be put on display around the room with the description
in front of each one. The students should then have the opportunity to examine
each other's Alien Beings to try to determine what planet they think each one
comes from. This part of the activity can also be done as an oral presentation.
(If the written descriptions are used during this part of the activity, students
must be instructed to write them without naming their worlds.)
(preferably no more than three years old)
- Odyssey Magazine
Geographic (see list below)
- Recent books
about the planets
After the Alien
Beings are reviewed, you might have the students talk about the difficulties
they ran into designing life on other worlds and discuss with them the reasons
our space probes have not found evidence of life elsewhere in the solar system.
on the Solar System in National Geographic
Weaver, K.: "Mariner
Unveils Venus and Mercury.'' (June 1975)
Weaver, K.: "First Explorers on the Moon.'' (Dec. 1969)
Schmitt, H: "Exploring Taurus-Littrow.'' (Sep. 1973)
Gore, R.: "Sifting for Life in the Sands of Mars.'' (Jan. 1977)
Gore, R.: "Voyager Views Jupiter.'' (Jan. 1980)
Gore, R.: "Saturn: Riddle of the Rings.'' (July 1981)
Weaver, K: "What You Didn't See in Kohoutek.'' (Aug 1974)
good general book:
Miller, R. and
Hartmann, W.: The Grand Tour: A Traveler's Guide to the Solar System.
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