|Purpose: To explain the seasons
of the year and the phases of the moon. Students often have many
misconceptions about Earthís motion in space, the phases of the moon, and
the causes of seasonal changes. Some of these misconceptions come from
student misinterpretations of perspective drawings in Earth Science textbooks.
Researching and constructing a 3D animation of the Earthís motion in space
will help students build a more scientific understanding of the Earthís
motion in space.
Overview: With teacher guidance, students discuss and model the yearly cycle of the Earth. Then they create a 3D animated computer model of the Earth and Sun which demonstrates the cycles of the days, months and seasons. Their model should show the Earth revolving around the sun, and rotating around its own axis which is tilted at a 23° angle to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the sun. They should be able to use the model to explain the cause of day and night and the seasons of the year. More advanced students should add the moon to their model and use it to explain the phases of the moon. This can then be extended to explain the relation of the lunar cycle to the monthly and yearly pattern of low and high tides.
2.00 Apply problem solving and design concepts.
6.02 Analyze planetary motion and the physical laws that explain that motion:
3D Studio MAX - link to attached earthmap - a jpeg which can be used for a realistic looking earth
any other 3-D modeling and animation package
Presentation software - Powerpoint or an html editor
It is essential for teachers to realize that many people have serious misconceptions about the causes of phenomena such as seasons, lunar phases, tides, eclipses etc. For example, a common misconception is that the earth is further from the sun in winter than in summer. (In fact the Earth is closest to the sun in December which is winter in the Northern hemisphere.) Research shows that these misconceptions are held even by many college graduates, so do not expect your students to understand these phenomena without assistance! These misconceptions sometimes arise from a combining personal experience with poorly understood previous instruction and misinterpretation of pictorial drawings in Earth Science textbooks. These misconceptions powerfully shape student understanding of new material including diagrams, videos, role play and teacher explanations. Asking students to create their own visualizations can help the students overcome previous misconceptions and come to a more scientific understanding of phenomena. Before students start to create their computer based visualizations teachers should be sure students have a basic understanding of the Earth's daily and yearly cycles. This can be accomplished by simulating these cycles with a lamp and a globe in the classroom. The teacher's role is to ask probing questions challenging misconceptions. This is an essential role - otherwise the students may create visualizations that reinforce misconceptions. Question students carefully to be sure they understand before proceeding to independent work! Continue to challenge them with questions as they create their visualizations. Some links to material about misconceptions are given below in the reference section.
Another area of difficulty for students is the relative sizes and distances involved. The radius of the sun is approximately 218 times as large as the Earth, so any visible scale model of the Earth will not fit on the same page or computer monitor image as the Sun. You can simulate this with a ball with a 2 cm diameter (e.g. a large marble) to represent the Earth , then, ask students to figure out the size of ball they need for the sun. (It would need to be 4.36 meters in diameter). Then, using the same 2 cm diameter marble to represent the Earth, ask how far away the center of the sun should be. (It would need to be 234.81 meters away - more than two football fields laid end to end!) So the students cannot create a scale model, but must instead adjust the scale to fit the display medium while maintaining visibility of all features. If the model of the sun is created to be relatively small, it will appear further away.
The design brief focuses on the first group of questions below. Teachers may want to modify the design brief for a more advanced group by including the second and third set of questions.
Questions: Discussion and visualizations should focus on answering the following questions. The animation and associated presentation should answer these questions visually.
Sci Vis Techniques
Unlike many of the other design briefs featured on our web site, in this project all of the students will be working on very similar animations. This can be used to good effect by the teacher in leading class discussion of the importance of camera placement and lighting techniques and in raising the question of tradeoffs in quality versus production time and file size.
Student Design Brief Name______________________
Design a multimedia presentation to explain and illustrate the movement of the Earth relative to the sun.
Scientific concepts which must be covered:
written discussion of scale used
1. Develop understanding of your topic
Research the following facts about the
Earth's movement in Space:
Look closely at these numbers: How many times does the Earth rotate
as it completes one revolution? Is it possible to create an accurate
scale model of the Earth and Sun and the distance between them on a desktop
size piece of paper? What difficulties do the relative sizes and
distances cause? Write a short description of the problems and your
solutions. Turn in to teacher
2. Plan your presentation
Plan your overall presentation
Set up overall slide presentation.
You should now preview your presentation as a whole making sure that it all works, fits together coherently, answers the design brief question, and meets all the project requirements. Make any needed improvements.
Present the project to the class.6. Evaluate Your Work
As a group, write a reflection explaining at least three strengths of your project, what problems you had to overcome to produce it and detailing what you would change about it if you could. This should be word processed and no longer than 1 page. Turn in to teacher.Due Dates:
Team Members: __________________________
Available Software: ___________________________
Available Hardware: ____________________________
Success will be measured by the following criteria:
Possible extensions include adding the moon to your presentation, visually comparing the Earth to one of the other planets, actually presenting this to earth science classes or middle school students, producing a CD ROM for Earth Science or middle school classes to use.
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