Before you read this article, why did you think most barns were painted red?
Dying stars produce iron far out in space. How do you think that iron ends up in the red paint people use on Earth?
Think about what you learned in this article. If a five-year-old child asked you why most barns were painted red, what would you say?
According to the article, people paint most barns red for economic reasons. Red paint is the cheapest paint. Using science, we now know why that is. Think of recent economic choices you've made. Can you think of a scientific reason that justifies any of those choices? If so, what might that reason be?
- Write the following sentences on the board: "A star dies. A barn is painted red." Poll the class twice, first to see how many students would have seen a connection between these sentences before they read the article and again to see how many saw a connection after reading the article.
- Point out that if you search hard enough, you can usually find a scientific explanation for most things. And often, part of that explanation has to do with space. After all, Earth is just a tiny part of the universe.
- Have students conduct research to identify more connections between everyday items on Earth and phenomena that occur in space. Challenge them to create a list of the top five most interesting and/or most unlikely connections they find.
- Instruct students to write a brief explanation of their top five facts. Tell them to include a photo or draw a picture to illustrate each fact.
Invite students to first share their pictures with the class. Challenge classmates to identify the connection between the picture and space. Then have students reveal and explain their facts. Discuss how science can be used to explain each connection.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
Have the class conduct research to identify potential connections. Poll the class to identify students' top five choices. Divide the class into five groups. Assign each group one fact. Instruct them to investigate their assigned facts further. Then have each group draw a picture of the everyday item it investigated and write a few sentences explaining what they learned.
Divide the class into small groups. Have groups conduct research to identify five connections between everyday items on Earth and phenomena that occur in space. Instruct each group to draw pictures of the items they investigated and write brief summaries explaining each connection.
Divide the class into pairs. Have partners conduct research to identify five connections between everyday items on Earth and phenomena that occur in space. Instruct partners to find a photo of each item they investigated. Challenge them to write detailed summaries that clearly explain the science behind each connection.
Give students time to conduct research to identify connections between everyday items on Earth and phenomena that occur in space. Challenge each student to compile his or her own top five list. Once the facts are selected, have students find a photo of each item they investigated. Challenge them to write detailed summaries that clearly explain the science behind each connection.
In these lessons from the Smithsonian Center of Learning and Digital Access, the class works together to arrange pictures from space according to the students’ best ideas of size, distance and age. This active introduction to the cosmos can be a pre-assessment for a unit on space science. In a follow-up modeling exercise, relationships in space are brought down to a scale of two inches.
Go to the stars, across the Milky Way and further out into the universe with this website from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The site gives details on discoveries about the size and content of the universe.
This online exhibition from the National Museum of Natural History explores the birth, life and death of stars and galaxies. The site features hi-resolution images of the universe and explains the science behind capturing the photographs.
This webpage, presented by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, presents the standard periodic table as well as "the periodic table for astronomy,” a representation of elements based on their average abundance by mass in the universe.
This website, from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, introduces students to celestial mapping by making analogies to the earthly system of longitude and latitude.
Read this Smithsonian article to learn how cosmic dust may have altered life on Earth as we know it.
Read this Smithsonian article to learn about a new study, which shows that today’s meteorites differ considerably from those of the ancient past.