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Hands-on Activities

Teachers, use these standards-based hands-on activities to enhance your SPOT presentation (download copies at the bottom of this page)! Your SPOT ambassador can help you lead these activities when they visit. You could also do these before an ambassador presents in order to prep your students, or after the ambassador leaves to reinforce what they learned.

***** Note: Hands-on activities provided by SPOT Ambassadors during your visit are only offered for groups of less than 30 students at a time. *****

Build a Molecule
(30 minutes) - Use gumdrops and toothpicks to build your own molecule! Learn about "functional groups" to describe your molecule's properties.
Good for all ages. Best with "How to Make a Planet...with Life!" presentation.

Design an Alien
(30 minutes) - Astronomers have found hundreds of other worlds. How would another life form adapt to environments with different surfaces, temperatures, atmospheres, and gravity? This is your chance to get creative!
Good for all ages. Best with "How to Make a Planet...with Life!" presentation.

Pocket Solar System (20-30 minutes) - Fold register tape to map out the relative distances between the orbits of the planets! This is a fun, easy, and quick activity.
Good for all ages and presentations.
  • NGSS MS-ESS1 Earth’s Place in the Universe, Science and Engineering Practices: Developing and Using Models. Use paper folding to predict and construct a scale model for orbital radius of planets in the solar system. Discuss pros and cons of the model.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas: ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System. Determine how the planets and the asteroid belt are distributed throughout the solar system.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. Discuss proportion and scale between model and reality for the relative distance of solar system objects.
  • CCSS Mathematics 6.RP.A.1 Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ration relationship between two quantities. Use ratio language to answer questions such as: If the paper is divided into 16ths and folded in half one more time, what fraction will each segment represent?    
Sizing Up the Moon (30 minutes) - How big is the moon in comparison to Earth? How far away? Use Play-Doh to make your best guess, then find out the true scale!
Good for all ages and presentations.
  • ETS1A: Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem. Use playdoh to predict and construct a scale model for the relative size of the Earth and Moon.
  • Crosscutting Concepts: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. Discuss the difference in proportion and scale between a mass-based model and a size-based model.
  • CCSS Mathematics 7.RP.A.2 Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities. Predict and determine the relative distance between the Earth and Moon, using the same scale as their sizes. 
Green Bank Telescope (GBT) Engineering Design Challenge (60-90 minutes) - The Green Bank Telescope is the largest steerable structure on land. How do engineers balance cost, materials, and weight to make such a strong and durable telescope? Practice building your own tall structure that can hold weight with spaghetti, gum drops, and marshmallows!
Good for middle school and older
. Best with "The Invisible Universe 2.0" presentation.
  • NGSS MS-PS1 Matter and its Interactions Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function. Experiment with structural materials (ex: spaghetti, gumdrops, marshmallows, toothpicks) and shapes (ex: triangles, squares)
  • Crosscutting Concept: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. Discuss how the challenges faced in designing a structure might scale to other materials and larger structures.
  • NGSS MS-PS2 Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function. Design and test structures that will remain stable and support weight (i.e. as sand is added to the top of the structure).
  • Science and Engineering Practices: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Compare and contrast the effectiveness of other groups’ designs; offer explanations for why the GBT designs functioned as they did.
  • NGSS MS-ETS1-1 Engineering Design Cross Cutting Concepts: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World. Discuss the purposes of building a large structure that can hold weight. Compare to construction of the Green Bank Telescope.
  • Disciplinary Core Idea ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems. Plan construction of a structure with material, height, strength, time, and cost constraints. 
Programming a Robotic Arm (30 minutes) - Learn how diligent and careful computer programmers needs to be to get a robot like Curiosity or the arm on the International Space Station to follow directions. Program your own code for a robot arm to stack cups!
Good for middle school and older. Best with "The International Space Station" and "Mars" presentations.

Electromagnetic War (15-30 minutes) - A new take on the old card game war! Learn about the different types of light. Longest wavelength wins!
Good for all ages. Best with "The Invisible Universe 2.0" and "Space Telescopes: Searching for Other Worlds" presentations.

Build-Your-Own Watershed (30 minutes) - What is a watershed? Where does our water come from? Where does it go? How do our daily lives impact the watershed(s) we live in? Students will ‘build’ their own watershed by balling up newspapers to create mountains, valleys, and lakes. A plastic table cloth will be placed over top of the landscape structure and props, representing various land use activities, will be placed throughout the watershed. Students will then simulate rainfall and observe how the rainwater washes various pollutants into downstream systems.
Good for all ages. Best with "Water: The Source of Life" presentation.
  • NGSS S.5.GS.8: Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.

A Drop in the Bucket (15-30 minutes) - How much of the Earth's water supply is freshwater? Where does the Earth keep this freshwater? How can our state's freshwater reservoirs impact the nation? Students will use 1000 mL of water to represent all water on Earth. They will then divide the 1000 mL into the relative amounts found within each of Earth's major reservoirs. The relative amounts can be given to the students (younger groups), or the students can be required to calculate amounts in each reservoir (older groups).
Good for all ages. Best with "Water: The Source of Life" presentation.


  • NGSS S.2.GS.11: Obtain information to identify where water is found on Earth and that it can be solid or liquid.
  • NGSS S.5.GS.9: Describe and graph the amounts and percentages of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.
  • NGSS S.HS.ENV.18: Identify sources, uses, quality, conservation, and global distribution of water.


***** Want to enhance your SPOT visit with pre- or post-visit activities? Check out these enrichment resources for each feature presentation *****


International Space Station enrichment activities

Space Telescopes: Exploring Other Worlds enrichment activities


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Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Sep 18, 2017, 1:47 PM
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Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Sep 4, 2015, 8:43 AM
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Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Sep 18, 2017, 1:47 PM
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Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Sep 4, 2015, 8:42 AM
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Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Sep 17, 2014, 12:20 PM
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Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Jan 14, 2014, 6:52 AM
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Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Jan 14, 2014, 6:50 AM
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Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Sep 17, 2014, 12:20 PM
Ċ
Science Public Outreach Team West Virginia,
Sep 17, 2014, 12:19 PM
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