Strand V
Use Scientific Knowledge from the Earth and Space Sciences in Real-World Contexts


Science/Strand V
Content Standard 4
All students will compare and contrast our planet and Sun to other planets and star systems; describe and explain how objects in the solar system move; explain scientific theories as to the origin of the solar system; and explain how we learn about the universe. (Solar System, Galaxy, and Universe)


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4
Middle School


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/Middle School
Benchmark 3
Describe and explain common observations of the night skies.

Benchmark Clarification

People have always observed the night sky and made observations of changes they have seen. Many cultures have recorded these observations and tried to determine patterns. Different objects move in different patterns.

Students will:

  • Diagram the phases of the Moon over time
  • Identify well-known constellations and stars

Key Concept / Real World Context / Instructional Example / Assessment Example / Resources


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/Middle School/Benchmark 3
Key Concept

  • perceived/actual movement of Moon across sky
  • Moon phases
  • eclipses
  • stars and constellations
  • planets
  • Milky Way
  • comets
  • comet tail
  • meteors
  • asteroids

The Sun is the light source for all solar system objects except meteors, whose light is due to friction with the atmosphere

Emitted light vs. reflected

See (SCI.IV.4.MS.3).

See (SCI.IV.4.MS.4).


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/Middle School/Benchmark 3
Real World Context

  • outdoor observing of the skies using:
  • telescopes
  • binoculars
  • ”naked-eye” viewing
  • telescopic and spacecraft-based photos of:
  • planets
  • moons
  • comets
  • news reports of planetary and lunar exploration


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/Middle School/Benchmark 3
Instructional Example

Benchmark Question: How do objects in the solar system move?

Focus Question: Why do objects in the night sky appear to change?

On a nightly basis (early fall or late spring), students will practice using star charts to locate constellations in the night sky. Students will study the phases of the Moon and provide insightful, thoughtful explanations for the changing phases. Through role-play they are to use their knowledge in a new situation. For example, a student (Earth) holding a ball (Moon) could revolve around a light source (Sun) to diagram various phases. For a month, students will diagram the appearance (the amount of reflected light) of the Moon and its location relative to the horizon in the night sky. They will research the make-up, appearance, and occurrence of meteor showers and comets, offering a meaningful account of their presence and composition.

Constructing: (SCI.I.1.MS.1), (SCI.I.1.MS.3).

Reflecting: (SCI.II.1.MS.3), (SCI.II.1.MS.5).


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/Middle School/Benchmark 3
Assessment Example

Pairs of students will create a three-dimensional or poster model that shows the Earth-Moon-Sun system. The model should be detailed, colorful, and easy to understand. It should include the phases of the Moon with consideration given to the misconceptions that the new moon phase is not the 1st Quarter phase and that a lunar eclipse does not occur with each full moon. Each pair of students will explain their model to the class. Each student should be prepared to answer teacher- and student-posed questions about the following:

1. Reasons for the various phases we see

2. Conditions for an eclipse to occur

3. Length of revolution

4. Effect on the Earth’s rotation

5. The amount of reflected light that one sees from Earth

(Give students rubric before activity.)

Scoring Rubric






Construction of model

Fails to construct a model that attempts to show relationships in the system.

Constructs a model that shows correct and somewhat detailed relationships within the system.

Constructs a model that accurately shows relationships, is correct, and is easy to understand.

Constructs a model that is very detailed, interesting, and could easily be used as a teaching tool in showing Earth-Moon-Sun system relationships.

Explanation of model

Attempts to explain or illustrate required concepts.

Correctly illustrates at least seventy-five percent of the concepts and details required.

Correctly illustrates most phases of the Moon and uses model to demonstrate changing phases, an eclipse, and rotation and revolution.

Correctly illustrates and manipulates the model to show all phases of the Moon; demonstrates changing phases, an eclipse, and rotation and revolution.

Correctness of answers

Correctly answers at least fifty percent of the posed questions.

Correctly answers seventy-five percent of the posed questions with an attempt to use the model as a reference.

Correctly answers all questions, often using the model as a teaching tool.

Correctly answers all questions, effectively using the model as a teaching tool.


Science/Strand V/Content Standard 4/Middle School/Benchmark 3


Lunar Phases Web Tool: First, there are three tutorial pages that explain the elements of the lunar phases diagram one-by-one. Second, there is the lunar phases tool and quiz. The tool is an interactive version of the diagram and can be used to solve the problems posed by the quiz.

Your Sky: -A useful resource for obtaining sky maps for “any time and date, viewpoint, and observing location. Each map is accompanied by an ephemeris for the Sun, Moon, planets, and any tracked asteroid or comet. A control panel permits customization of magnitudes, color, image size, and other parameters.”

Earth, Moon and Stars. GEMS.

Moon/ Outer Space. Bill Nye Video. Disney Educational. (800/295-5010).

Outer Space/Way Out There. Bill Nye Video. Disney Educational. (800/295-5010).

Pieces and Patterns. AIMS.