Living with a Star
From Sunscreen to Space Weather

GEMS Teacher’s Guide® for Grades 6–8

Written by David Glaser, Kevin Beals, Stephen Pompea, Carolyn Willard

Our star, the Sun. All life on Earth depends on its "steady" supply of heat and light. But the Sun’s output is actually tremendously variable, and includes much more than just these two energies. In Living with a Star, students become solar scientists, studying fascinating aspects of the Sun and Earth and the critical connections between the two.

Challenged to resolve a confounding mystery on Earth, in which strange things happen in the sky and to technology on the ground, students use research techniques, data collection, and time analysis to determine the likely culprit (the Sun!). To confirm their suspicions, students investigate the full array of solar output, and discover that a whole spectrum of electromagnetic energies, as well as a continuous wind of solar energetic particles, sweep past our planet every day. They learn that Earth is bombarded much more intensely by these energies and particles during periods of high solar activity.

In an activity about risks from ultraviolet radiation, students discover that Earth is naturally protected from most of the Sun’s harmful effects by two shields, our atmosphere and our permanent magnetic field, the magnetosphere. They realize that our skin acts as a third "shield" from the potentially damaging effects of ultraviolet light, and conduct controlled experiments on how best to protect themselves from UV (including risks from the thinning of the ozone layer). In a risk-assessment activity, students do research, gather data, make and interpret graphs, gauge risk factors, and engage in a simulation activity. In the process they generate ideas about predicting solar storms and minimizing potential damage, and gain valuable experience in risk assessment, making considered choices, and assessing priorities now and in the future—for themselves, their communities, and the planet as a whole.

Over the course of this unit students engage in activities that lead them to discover for themselves the potential risks of living with a star, and about many important and standards-based concepts in earth science, space science and technology, physics, and health science.

This GEMS guide comes with a Living with a Star CD-ROM and links to a parallel website. These resources supplement the unit with exciting, highly visual connections, including articles, movies, scientist interviews, Web links, and extension activities that expand on themes in the guide.

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Ordering Information

Living with a Star
on-line resources

ISBN: Grade Level Format Price
0-924886-73-0 6–8 6 activities
176 pages

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