Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Moon: Impact Craters
Do some hands-on exploring to learn about the ways in which craters are formed.
Fill a tub or box (a dishpan or shoebox work well) with an inch or so of flour. If desired, you can sprinkle a layer of cinnamon, paprika or cocoa on top of the flour. Doing so may increase the visibility of the craters. Ideally, plan for one tub/box for every 2 students. If you find yourself needing to put more than 4 at one tub, I'd recommend splitting the class so half do the activity while the others work on something else and then swapping.
You may wish to cover the table you'll be working on with newspapers. It might be wise to keep a damp cloth nearby as well, for wiping up any small flour spills.
Gather several different sizes of marbles.
Drop a marble straight down into the flour. Drop a different sized marble from the same height and observe the craters they made. Pay attention to the rims and any of crater radiating away from the center. Note any differences between the two craters.
Then, let the true experimentation begin... there are so many different variables that can be explored. Write down what you try and note how the resulting crater is both the same and different from the other craters you've seen thus far.
Drop the marbles from different heights.
Drop the marbles (same size) from the same height, but give one of the marbles an extra push.
"Throw" the marble into the flour at an angle.
Use a non-spherical object to make a crater.
When finished, draw some conclusions about crater shapes and sizes and the objects that formed them. Summarize your conclusions in a paragraph.
You can find lots of people's versions of this activity by searching "impact crater activity" or something along those lines. If you desire, you can readily locate ready-to-use worksheets and formal lab sheets.