Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Land forms + Mars + Meteorites + Impacts = Impression in a Landscape and in a Child's Mind

Mar's Olympus Mons - Largest know volcano in the Solar System.
Image courtesy: Volcanic Places on Mars

Land forms on Mars, courtesy National Geographic Magazine

Yesterday, I gave a lesson on land forms found on Mars. Yes, indeed, I did and it went over wonderfully. I had noticed an article in a later edition of National Geographic about land forms on this planet and thought it would be a great way of extending the children's awareness of familiar work - the land forms on the shelves - to encompass the landscape of other planets - in this case Mars.

I had my afternoon assistant Cristina laminate the cut out images while I placed a variety of materials on the main lesson rug. I put out the lake and water globe, two land forms, some of the land form work and placed the recently laminated images next to them. On top of several place mats, I positioned a large rectangular platter which I then covered with a few large sheets of brown paper (brown cloth would have worked better but this was fine). Also, I placed a bag of white flour, a container of cocoa powder, a measuring cup and a small bowl of large, dried fava beans on top of the mats.

I covered the bottom of the serving dish with the white flour:

Then I covered the white flour with a thin layer of cocoa powder:

With the children assembled, I discussed the land forms they were familiar with and then showed them the images of the Mars landscape. I asked them how these impact areas - craters and such - had been created. Meteorites and weather were their answers. I told them that we were going to use the fava beans as meteorites whirling through outer space and then impacting the landscape I had created as a model of our planet and others.

As I lifted the bean up into the air, their eyes followed my hand. I threw the first bean and then a second. The impact was so amazing. First a crater and then the white flour splashed across the brown cocoa powder duplicating some of the images taken from National Geographic.

Images of the initial impact of the "meteorites."

We talked about the dust that rose up from the surface at the moment of impact; the suffocating dust and how it caused the animals and plants to die. We talked about a thick dust cloud blocking out the sun and not letting enough light get through to the planets surface and about the ice that spread across the landscape as it froze. It was an amazing discussion with passionate contributors.

Here are two more photographs of the presentation:

I also noted how the same sized objects impacted the landscape differently: some left deep craters while others made surface indentations only. The suggested causes were speed and angle of impact.

FYI: An ingredient substitution - instead of using cocoa powder, which was a little pricey, you could use a box of chocolate cake mix or light brownie mix.

1 comment:

Beverly said...

I'm going to do that with my kids. It's good for all of them, but I suspect the 3-year-old will really like it.