We’ve received several outreach kits from the Night Sky Network to aid in astronomy education and outreach. These kits are great because they come with field-tested activities, most of the materials you need, especially hard to find ones, instructions, handouts, and even potential scripts for each activity. These kits are made with astronomy clubs in mind so that they can do outreach during the day or inside on a cloudy night, but these work well for classrooms as well.
Our first full kit is the Space Rocks Toolkit, which comes in a handy carry box and with its own vinyl banner. The banner has a great image of the Moon on one side and a view of the Earth on the other. The banner becomes part of the activities itself, as it shows the locations of various meteorite impacts, or places where space rocks have crashed into Earth, across North America. That banner of Earth is also useful for a scale model of some other space rocks, as the kit contains an image of the Moon, scaled to the size it would be compared to the banner Earth, and several model asteroids that have been fashioned out of clay.
If impressing your students with the sheer size of objects in space isn’t enough, they can hold a real rock from space in their hands. The activity “Meteorite or Meteor Wrong?” is one of my favorites and very portable. You are given a set of several rocks, some of which are meteorites that came to Earth from space and some that are native rocks of Earth. Don’t worry if you can’t identify them on site. The booklet included with the kit walks you through the activity and has a little “answer key” at the end.
I’d encourage you to browse the activities in the toolkit in the Night Sky Network website. Many of the activities have explainer videos on how to use them, so you can see what you’re getting. Or, come to the STEM Resource Center to see the kit for yourself, sort through the Solar System cards, try out asteroid finding activity, or see if you can tell a meteorite from an Earth rock.
Guest post by Nicole Gugliucci