The Changing Universe

Grade level: 8-12

Content area: Earth Science

You may also jump to the Assessment or Planetarium Visit sections.


Click on the lesson (1-6), for more information.

Unit Assessment

Activity 1

This activity should be done in groups.

Students are to construct a model of the Universe as they did in Lesson 1 but now applying what they have learned in this unit. This second model should highlight all that the students have learned about during the course of this unit.

The model should have the components scaled somewhat relative to one another i.e. Sun is much larger than the planets, Jupiter is larger than Earth, moon is smaller than Earth, solar system is smaller than Milky Way galaxy, etc.

If possible, have students include a scale model of the Solar System.


Activity 2

This activity should be done individually.

In an essay, the student is to compare their first model with this revised model. The essay should address the following points/questions*:

  1. What are the differences?
  2. Expand on the following: “(The) revisions are based on the following new insights, data and or understanding...”
  3. How has your understanding of the tools of astronomy affected the way you designed your new model? (Use of light, measurements of distances, etc.) “My Model now helps to explain ... ”
  4. “Features of the universe this new model misrepresent ... ” Why are these features misrepresented?
  5. “Features omitted from this new model ... ” Why are these features omitted?

* The quoted portions are taken from Modeling the Universe Journal.


You may wish to create a checklist of the necessary components of the essay and follow the school's writing rubric.

Or, have students brainstorm what the science content of the rubric should be instead of using the checklist.

Planetarium Visit

The planetarium field trip can come at any time between lesson 1 and the culminating activities.

Before students arrive, they should be familiar with the questions that need answers. Refer students to their KWL chart.

They will not be able to write anything while in the planetarium as it will be very dark. They will have to wait until after the show to write down information that they learned in the show.

Enjoy the show and then ask your questions that didn't get answered in the show.

After leaving the planetarium and before boarding the bus back to school, if there is time, have the cooperative groups meet to debrief and share what they learned, what they liked/didn't like, and what questions still remain to be answered. Back at school debrief as a class with each group contributing to the discussion.

You may want to use one group's graphic organizer or KWL chart to check off items that students heard about and saw in the show.