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SPARK - Science for Middle School

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Exploring the Planets and Moons of our Solar System - Junior SPARK

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
July 07, 2014 - July 11, 20141M-F 9A-12N and T,TH 1P-4POpenJennifer Whitten10476

Course Description

Now is the time to get involved in planetary science! NASA is sending out mission after mission of unmanned spacecraft to investigate the mysteries of our solar system. Come and explore the latest high-resolution datasets and learn how to plan a mission to one of our inner planets.

Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered how the Moon got there? Why did we send humans to the Moon and what did they discover there? Why do we think Mars might have extraterrestrial life? What form might this type of life have? Why are the planets all so different and what makes each planet unique? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is the course for you. Throughout the week, we will explore the terrestrial planets of our own Solar System. We will look at the features observed on planetary surfaces (like volcanoes and impact craters) and figure out what that tells us about the formation and evolution of the solar system and individual planets. As the week progresses we will move out from the terrestrial planets and learn about the other planetary bodies in the outer solar system, like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Did you know Jupiter's moon Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system? Or that we think there is an ocean below the surface of Europa? What could this mean about the possibility of life there? During the course you will have the opportunity to visit an observatory, analyze the same high-resolution datasets as NASA scientists and develop your own mission to another planet. Activities include presentations and videos on past and future NASA missions, building a scale model of the Solar System across campus, and constructing a model of your mission spacecraft!

Students will develop a basic understanding of the different terrestrial planets in our Solar System and the major questions under investigation by planetary scientists around the globe. They will be able to look at an image of a planetary surface and identify the major processes active in the image as well as the particular planet imaged. In addition, students will be able to develop their own scientific questions and design a project to answer those questions.

There are no prerequisites for this course. All the information you need to complete and understand the course will be presented to you. Come one, come all.

*This Junior SPARK course is designed for students, 12 years and older, who are currently in the 6th and 7th grades (entering 7th and 8th grades Fall 2014). Older students are encouraged to register for our Senior SPARK courses.