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Madison Metropolitan School District

Cosmic Colors: Teacher's Guide

Expanded Description:

cosmic colors

Cosmic Colors will take you on a wondrous journey across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.  Discover the many reasons for color—like why the sky is blue and why Mars is red.  Take a tour within a plant leaf and journey inside the human eye.  Investigate x-rays by voyaging to a monstrous black hole and then back at your doctor’s office.  You will even see the actual color of a dinosaur--based on recent evidence.  Get ready for an amazing adventure under a rainbow of cosmic light! The image on the right includes visuals from the show (click the image for a larger image).

We start in the daytime sky, fast-forward through sunset to the nighttime sky, and give a brief orientation to objects in the current night sky. We point out that everything we are seeing is because of the light that we are receiving from these distant objects. And the same is true for the things we see in our everyday life. This provides a good introduction to the 32-minute pre-recorded fulldome show, in which we explore different types of light along the electromagnetic spectrum.

Student Activities:

NASA - Space-Based Astronomy Educator Guide

The units of study in this guide include hands-on science activities about the electromagnetic spectrum.
Resource Type: Classroom Activity, Lesson Plan, Educator Guide Grade Level: 5-8

Individual Sections:

  • Introductory Pages
  • A Brief History of the United States Astronomy Spacecraft and Crewed Space Flights
  • Unit 1: The Atmospheric Filter
  • Unit 2: The Electromagnetic Spectrum
  • Unit 3: Collecting Electromagnetic Radiation
  • Unit 4: Down to Earth
  • Unit 5: Space-Based Astronomy on the Internet
  • Additional Resources

NASA - Electromagnetic Math

Electromagnetic Math is a huge collection of activities designed to supplement teaching about electromagnetism. Students explore the simple mathematics behind light and other forms of electromagnetic energy including the properties of waves, wavelength, frequency, the Doppler shift, and the various ways that astronomers image the universe across the electromagnetic spectrum to learn more about the properties of matter and its movement.
Resource Type: Classroom Activity, Lesson Plan, Educator Guide, Grade Level: 5-8, 9-12

Five Stars Afterschool Curriculum: Using Light as a Tool to Understand the Electromagnetic Spectrum

This afterschool curriculum includes six lessons plus supplementary materials (e.g., videos, PowerPoint presentations, and images) that explore how light from the electromagnetic spectrum is used as a tool for learning about the Sun. The curriculum is designed to be flexible to meet the needs of afterschool programs and includes recommendations for partial implementation based on time constraints. It was specifically designed to engage girls in science.
Resource Type: Classroom Activity, Lesson Plan, Educator Guide, Grade Level: 5-8

  • Lesson #1: Solar Cookie
  • Lesson #2: Exploring the EM Spectrum 
  • Lesson #3: Rainbows of Light: the Visible Light Spectrum
  • Lesson #4: Invisible Light: Ultraviolet
  • Lesson #5: Detecting Invisible Light
  • Lesson #6: Our 3D Sun

Interactions of Energy and Matter: Dawn Instrumentation

Become a crime scene investigator! Learners model Dawn Mission scientists, engineers, and technologists and how they use instrumentation to detect distant worlds.
Resource Type: Classroom Activity, Lesson Plan, Educator Guide, Grade Level: 8-adult

Project Spectra!

“Project Spectra!” is a science and engineering program for 6th – 12th grade students, focusing on how light is used to explore the Solar System. “Project Spectra!” emphasizes hands-on activities, like building a spectrograph, as well as the use of real data to solve scientific questions. (NASA approved and funded)
Resource Type: Classroom Activity, Lesson Plan, Educator Guide, Grade Level: 6-12

  • Patterns and Fingerprints
  • Graphing the Rainbow
  • Using Spectral Data to Explore Saturn & Titan
  • Goldilocks and the Three Planets
  • Building a Fancy Spectrograph
  • Using a Fancy Spectrograph
  • A Spectral Mystery
  • Designing an Open Spectrograph
  • Designing a Spectroscopy Mission
  • Marvelous Martian Mineralogy
  • Star Light, Star Bright? Finding Remote Atmospheres
  • Solving a Mixed Up Problem
  • Enceladus, I Barely Knew You
  • Planet Designer: What’s Trending Hot?
  • Planet Designer: Kelvin Climb
  • Planet Designer: Martian Makeover
  • Planet Designer: Retro Planet Red