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Madison Metropolitan School District

MMSD FOSS Planetary Science

This section is dedicated to providing resources to support the FOSS Planetary Science Course for middle school students. The resources are organized according to the investigation number. If you have suggestions, corrections, or requests regarding these resources, please contact the MMSD Planetarium staff.

Supplemental Resources listed by FOSS investigation number:

  • Investigation 2: Round Earth/Flat Earth
  • Investigation 3: Day and Night
  • Investigation 5: Moon Craters
    To help with the Moon-Crater Controversy dialog, visuals from the CD have been compiled into a PowerPoint presentation. You can download that here: crater-controversy.ppt [1.2 MB file].
  • Investigation 6: Mapping the Moon
    If you would like to set up an evening observing session so that your students can observe the moon in a telescope, we have 3 telescopes at the planetarium that we loan out to teachers and families. The planetarium director would be happy to show you how to use the telescopes and help you plan your observing session. See our Equipment Loan page for more information. Knowing that this isn't always possible, we have a video clip we'd be happy to share if you send us an email.
  • Investigation 9: Phases of the Moon
    a. see Moon Motions Lab in the Planetarium Visits section below.
    b. see Crescent Moon Around the World page.
    c. see Moon FAQ page.
  • Investigation 10: Explore the Planets
    Replace or expand on parts of this investigation by observing planetary movement in the current sky (planetarium director can help with this), and consider doing one or more of the following activities: Solar System Stroll, Our View of the Solar System.

Planetarium Visits

The planetarium is uniquely suited to supporting the FOSS Planetary Science unit. There are too many ways for us to list all of them here, and the planetarium director would be happy to tailor a program to meet your specific needs. The following list is provided to give you some ideas. You will need to prioritize based on your own circumstances.

  • Introduction: use the planetarium visit to raise awareness in the students of what we see from Earth; locate planets and the moon in the current sky; raise questions about where we are in the cosmos, and how we know where we are. When you make your reservations, choose the program Skywatching, and in the Comments section indicate that this is as an introduction to the FOSS Planetary Science unit.
  • Culmination: come to the planetarium at the end of your unit to tie together what they've learned; view the cosmos from their place here on Earth, and zoom out to see where we are, where the planets are at this present time, and how it all fits together. When you make your reservations, choose the program Cosmic Perspectives, and in the Comments section indicate that this is as a culmination of the FOSS Planetary Science unit.
  • Moon Motions Lab: Investigation #9 addresses some very difficult concepts. You and your students may find it helpful to participate in this lab at the planetarium where we can show what it looks like from the Earth, while we investigate the changes using modeling techniques.
  • Current Planet Positions: learn how to find the planets in the current sky, and investigate how their current positions in the solar system affect their appearance and placement in our sky. When you make your reservations, choose the program Skywatching, and in the Comments section indicate that you would like to focus on planet positions related to the FOSS Planetary Science unit.
  • Solar System Update: as an extension to the FOSS unit, get an update on some of the latest discoveries in the solar system, and find out which space probes are currently in use.
  • Our Star, the Sun: This FOSS unit doesn't include much on the sun. Use this program to extend their learning to include the sun. If weather permits, observe the sun in a telescope!

Beyond FOSS Planetary Science

The FOSS Planetary Science curriculum does not cover every topic that you may want to cover at this level to address the Wisconsin Science Standards (specifically E.8.7 related to the structure of galaxies and the universe). Below are some resources to assist you in addressing some of those standards.

  • Hubble Space Telescope Deep Field Lesson Package:
    We recommend Activity One, in which students use a sampling technique to estimate the number of galaxies in the image, and eventually the number of galaxies in the observable universe. The MMSD Planetarium may still have a few copies of this package available, or you can do it online with your students.
  • The Incredible Two-Inch Universe:
    Explore size and scale in the universe in just four steps.
  • How Fast Do Galaxies Move? An Interactive Lab
    By examining the spectrum of light from a galaxy, you can determine whether the galaxy is moving towards or away from Earth, and how fast. This is a great activity, and can be done either online, or using print-outs.
  • How High Up Is Space?
    This is an excellent activity developed by Andrew Fraknoi (Astronomical Society of the Pacific) in which students construct a scale model depicting the heights of things such as Mount Everest, airplane flights, beginning of space, and the Hubble Space Telescope. Download the PDF file of the activity. (Answer Key)