Teaching Science


In Our Time: Eclipses

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss solar eclipses, some of life’s most extraordinary moments, when day becomes night and the stars come out before day returns either all too soon or not soon enough, depending on what you understand to be happening. In ancient China, for example, there was a story that a dragon was eating the sun and it had to be scared away by banging pots and pans if the sun were to return. Total lunar eclipses are more frequent and last longer, with a blood moon coloured red like a sunrise or sunset. Both events have created the chance for scientists to learn something remarkable, from the speed of light, to the width of the Atlantic, to the roundness of Earth, to discovering helium and proving Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

In Our Time: William and Caroline Herschel

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Herschel (1738 – 1822) and his sister Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848) who were born in Hanover and made their reputation in Britain. William was one of the most eminent astronomers in British history. Although he started life as a musician, as a young man he became interested in studying the night sky. With an extraordinary talent, he constructed telescopes that were able to see further and more clearly than any others at the time. He is most celebrated today for discovering the planet Uranus and detecting what came to be known as infrared radiation. Caroline also became a distinguished astronomer, discovering several comets and collaborating with her brother.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.


It is the modern era of space exploration, six space agencies from the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, India, and Russia lead the world in launching spacecraft on journeys of planetary discovery. Believing that cooperation is key to success, multiple players must band together to build the rockets, spacecraft, and science instruments needed to reach the far-flung targets of exploration. Relationships are tested as each player strives to outperform each other and score the most discoveries to win the game.

Downlink, players lead a space agency to develop missions of planetary exploration. Resources are limited, and players must constantly decide where to allocate them best to score the most points. They can choose to specialize in launching rockets, delivering spacecraft to targets, downlinking science data, or spread their resources across multiple areas to increase the likelihood of success. Key events require dice rolling, and team training is available to stack the odds in player's favor.

Do you have what it takes to lead the world in planetary exploration? Find out in
Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery.

Once your data are on the ground — you combine them to make scientific discoveries. Want to discover a subsurface ocean on Europa? You must combine atmospheric science, astrobiology, cosmochemistry, and geophysics data. With over sixty downlink data cards and thirty discoveries — the possibilities are endless.

I could see playing this one as an extended game in teams over the course of the space unit. It is both competitive and cooperative, in that you can’t win without cooperating with other teams, and yet you are competing for the top position.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

In Our Time: Solar Wind

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the flow of particles from the outer region of the Sun which we observe in the Northern and Southern Lights, interacting with Earth's magnetosphere, and in comet tails that stream away from the Sun regardless of their own direction. One way of defining the boundary of the solar system is where the pressure from the solar wind is balanced by that from the region between the stars, the interstellar medium. Its existence was suggested from the C19th and Eugene Parker developed the theory of it in the 1950s and it has been examined and tested by a series of probes in C20th up to today, with more planned.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.


Now you can experience the challenge and excitement of flying an Apollo Lunar Mission with APOLLO: The Game of Our First Voyages to the Moon. A collaborative STEM board game for 1-4 players ages 13 and up, APOLLO puts players in the Spacecraft and Mission Control, responsible for critical decisions and maneuvers throughout the spaceflight to the Moon.

The players become the Apollo Mission Commander, the Lunar Module Pilot (LMP), the Command Module Pilot (CMP) and Mission Control Houston. Each position has critical roles to play in the outcome of the mission - but if you don't have 4 people to play the game, don't worry - you can easily combine the roles or even play by yourself!

Based upon extensive research of public NASA documents, photographs, and mission reports.

After mastering the basic Lunar Landing Mission, players can fly all of the Historic Apollo Lunar Missions, with more challenging mission goals in order to obtain scientific samples and data.

Also included are the cancelled Apollo 18-19 missions and a dedicated Apollo 13 "Houston, we have a problem scenario".

Or pick your favorite Astronauts of the era and create your own Apollo Mission crew — The "what if" possibilities are endless!!!

I haven’t tried this in the classroom myself, as I haven’t taught grade 9 science since I bought it, but it’s a fun game. The play is simple and a four person game takes about half an hour. There is a classroom set available.

The biggest downside is the flight plan's extensive use of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). It fits the period, and as the designer is a retired Naval Flight Officer I doubt he notices them, but for classroom use I think a glossary will be required.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

In Our Time: Venus

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Venus which is both the morning star and the evening star, rotates backwards at walking speed and has a day which is longer than its year. It has long been called Earth’s twin, yet the differences are more striking than the similarities. Once imagined covered with steaming jungles and oceans, we now know the surface of Venus is 450 degrees celsius, and the pressure there is 90 times greater than on Earth, enough to crush an astronaut. The more we learn of it, though, the more we learn of our own planet, such as whether Earth could become more like Venus in some ways, over time.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

Perimeter Inspirations: Figuring Outer Space

Figuring Outer Space is an inquiry-based educational resource. Hands-on activities focused on stars, exoplanets, the Milky Way, and Crab Nebula stimulate learning for students using this resource. Students explore the life cycle of stars, sequence images, model a method for detecting exoplanets, learn about key features of our home galaxy—and more. Math topics include using ratio and proportion, exponents, percent and proportion, and mathematical modelling—as well as graphing data and evaluating algebraic expressions. This digital resource is designed to excite learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) with an emphasis on 21st century skills—including collaboration, problem solving, and critical thinking.

As usual with Perimeter Institute products, this downloadable resource comes in both PDF and Microsoft Word versions, so you can customize it if you want to.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

Space Race: The Card Game

The world struggles in the Cold War, and many see the sky as the next battlefield. The era of the space race has just begun. Do you have what it takes to lead a budding space agency into a new age of human achievement?

Each game is completely different and there’s no definite winning strategy. You can play it over and over again, and with a playing time of about 40 minutes, you’ll get to have plenty of shots at conquering the universe.

Space Race: The Card Game is an indie card game in which 1-4 players become directors of space agencies trying to conquer the universe. The game is fast, yet complex and strategic, based on synergies and combo construction.

This limited-print game is available for free as a print-and-play card game, which I’d definitely recommend for classroom use as the very-high-quality print game costs €50 (with the Intercosmos expansion, which is currently on Kickstarter).

This may be too complicated for some students, but those used to Euro-style games (like Settlers of Catan) will be able to understand the rules — especially if they can borrow a copy of the rulebook. Once the rules are understood a game takes less than an hour, making this usable in the classroom.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

Here Comes Science: Music DVD and CD

Here Comes Science is a DVD/CD set of songs about science. The video for “Meet the Elements” was featured on boingboing.net, while the legendary rock version of “Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)” finally gets a fully realized studio reading, and even it’s own answer song. Danny Weinkauf contributes “I Am A Paleontologist” which would be used in the soundtrack to a national television campaign.

Science Is Real
Meet The Elements
I Am A Paleontologist w/ Danny Weinkauf
The Bloodmobile
Electric Car w/ Robin Goldwasser
My Brother The Ape
What Is A Shooting Star?
How Many Planets?
Why Does The Sun Shine?
Why Does The Sun Really Shine?
Roy G. Biv
Put It To The Test
Speed And Velocity w/ Marty Beller
Computer Assisted Design
Solid Liquid Gas
Here Comes Science
The Ballad Of Davy Crockett (In Outer Space)

The songs may be silly children’s songs, but the science is real. I show some of the videos while I'm waiting for the class to arrive.

Linked in the grade 9 science, grade 10 science, and grade 11 kinematics pages.

In Our Time: Johannes Kepler

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630). Although he is overshadowed today by Isaac Newton and Galileo, he is considered by many to be one of the greatest scientists in history. The three laws of planetary motion Kepler developed transformed people's understanding of the Solar System and laid the foundations for the revolutionary ideas Isaac Newton produced later. Kepler is also thought to have written one of the first works of science fiction. However, he faced a number of challenges. He had to defend his mother from charges of witchcraft, he had few financial resources and his career suffered as a result of his Lutheran faith.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

In Our Time: The Kuiper Belt

In Our Time is a wonderful series on BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of icy objects at the fringes of our Solar System, beyond Neptune, in which we find the dwarf planet Pluto and countless objects left over from the origins of the solar system, some of which we observe as comets. It extends from where Neptune is, which is 30 times further out than the Earth is from the Sun, to about 500 times the Earth-Sun distance. It covers an immense region of space and it is the part of the Solar System that we know the least about, because it is so remote from us and has been barely detectable by Earth-based telescopes until recent decades. Its existence was predicted before it was known, and study of the Kuiper Belt, and how objects move within it, has led to a theory that there may be a 9th planet far beyond Neptune.

Linked in the grade 9 space unit.

Xtronaut: A Space Exploration Game

Do you have what it takes to put together a space mission and race through the solar system? Identify your mission target and put together the right combination of rocket parts and spacecraft to achieve mission success.

Each player selects a Mission Card from the deck. This card determines the player’s mission — the mission destination, type of spacecraft needed, the amount of Delta-V needed to achieve the mission, the potential to obtain gravity assists, and the points earned for completing the mission. Each player needs to collect the Playing Cards that give them the right spacecraft, first and second stage rockets, and matching fairings. Gravity assist and solid rocket booster cards are available to provide additional Delta-V if needed to complete the assigned mission. Once the mission is complete, the player earns the points for the mission, which varies based on the size of the spacecraft and the target, and starts work on their next mission. The Action Cards add real-life issues to the game that space missions often encounter — project cancellations, audits, government shutdowns, and other exciting twists and turns.

XTRONAUT®: The Game of Solar System Exploration is a board game that is easy to learn, and gives 2 – 4 players ages 7 and up the chance to develop space missions, build authentic rocket systems, and explore the solar system. Designed by Professor leading major NASA OSIRIS-REx space mission, the game is fun and engaging, but also exposes players to space science concepts related to planning and undertaking a real space mission — complete with full color education workbook that explains game scientific concepts.

I haven’t tried this in the classroom myself, as I haven’t taught grade 9 science since I bought it, but it’s a fun game. The play is simple and a four person game takes about half an hour.

You could also use it solo as a tool for designing missions: students could sort through the cards and select the parts they need, looking at the tradeoffs between different options.

Linked in the grade 9 space page.

New In Our Time Episodes

New Resources

  • Added link to the Perpetual Motion episode of In Our Time, linked in the grade 11 physics energy unit.
  • Added link to the Saturn episode of In Our Time, linked in the grade 9 space unit.

New Resources

New Resources

  • Added links to the Structure of the Sun Model and Lunar Globe Model files, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added links to the Moving Copernican System & Moving Ptolemaic System Models files, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added link to the Planisphere file, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added link to NASA’s Universe Spacecraft Paper Models collection, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added link to the Subaru Telescope Model file, linked in the Grade 9 space unit.
  • Added links to the Hydroelectric Power Plant Model and Wind Turbine Model files, linked in the Grade 9 physics unit.
  • Added the Lab Safety Tableaux file, linked in the Grade 10 chemistry unit.
  • Added links to the Animal Cell Model and Plant Cell Model files, linked in the Grade 10 biology unit.
  • Added links to the Hydroelectric Power Plant Model and Wind Turbine Model files, linked in the Grade 11 E&M unit.
  • Added links to the Animal Cell Model, Plant Cell Model, and Cyanobacteria Cell Model files, linked in the other science courses page.