meteorites

Overview

This lesson has been designed as an introduction to describing meteorites. Students will become familiar with meteorites by making a connection between the familiar (candy bars) and the unfamiliar (meteorites). This lesson is designed as a comfortable introduction to describing meteorites. Edible "rocks" are used in a scientific context, showing students the importance of observation, teamwork and communication skills.

Students will draw and describe the food in everyday terms, pairing their observations with short descriptions that are in geologic "Field Note" style. As the teacher and class review the field notes, appropriate geologic terminology may be substituted by the teacher and subsequently embraced by even very young students.

Materials

Management

  • Prepare sample "Edible Rocks" using the recommended recipes and candy bars listed below. Note: The first six candy bars are especially important since they closely represent meteorite characteristics that will be taught in other lessons. The other samples on the list are good for meeting the objectives of this activity and offer more variety. Use as many as needed, add a few extras to complicate the exercise. 

  • Recommended candy:

    1. Peanut Brittle - for chondrites

    2. Rocky Road - for chondrites

    3. Chocolate - for iron without fusion crust

    4. 3 Musketeers - for achondrite with fusion crust

    5. Rice Cereal Treats - for meteorite regolith breccia

    6. Chocolate brownie - for carbonaceous chondrites)

    7. SnickersTM

    8. Milky WayTM

    9. "Bar None"TM

    10. TwixTM

    11. ButterfingerTM

    12. SkorTM

    13. RoloTM

    14. Kit KatTM

    15. SymphonyTM

    16. M&M'sTM

    17. Nestle CrunchTM

    18. WhatchamacallitTM

    19. MoundsTM

    20. P.B. MaxTM

    21. Mr. GoodbarTM

    22. Hershey with AlmondsTM

  • Cut the samples so that a flat interior surface is exposed. Reserve part or most of each sample to be eaten by the students as a reward. 

  • Place each sample in a small plastic bag. Each team of two students will have one bag containing one sample. 

  • Make copies of the student worksheets (one for each team of two). 

  • Cut enlarged "Field Note" sample descriptions into numbered segments. Descriptions are written the way a scientist might take notes in a field record book. 

  • Arrange one set of prepared "Field Note" descriptions on a table(s) so that students may easily read and reach each of them. (Number sequence is not important). 

  • Have a variety of rock samples available. Students may bring their own samples, too.

Background

Vocabulary:

  • Texture
  • Density
  • Matrix
  • Breccia
  • Phases
  • Fusion crust
  • Chondrules
  • Inclusions
  • Vesicles
  • Bleb
  • Friable
  • Platy
  • Porous
  • Unfractured
  • Unconsolidated
  • Regolith

Procedures

  1. Distribute a sample and the worksheet to each team. Allow student teams to choose a sample, if possible.

  2. Explain that teams are responsible for describing and sketching their sample. Encourage students to describe their observations using familiar vocabulary; however, use no food terms. For example: "The outer layer is a thin coat of light brown material containing cream or tan colored round chunks" (i.e., chocolate candy bar coating that contains peanuts). Student descriptions need not be exactly like the provided descriptions. In fact their descriptions may be far more detailed than the short descriptions provided, which are in geologic "Field Note" form.

  3. Emphasize that working together is important.

  4. When students have finished sketching and describing their samples, have them pair their sketch, description and sample with the "Field Notes." Emphasize that their observations will not be exactly like the "Field Notes." They will likely try several matches before they have the accurate paring. Throughout this step, the teacher will verify correct pairs.

  5. When they have found the "Field Note" that describes their sample, students should place their sketch, description and sample next to the correct "Field Note" description. Reward the students by allowing them to eat the reserved part of the candy or other treat. If students have difficulty finding the description of their candy bar, then the teacher should encourage them to interact with other groups for help.

  6. When all students have successfully matched their samples, each team may describe its sample to the class. The class should have access to the sample and the prepared written description during the discussion. Sketches may also be displayed.

  7. Conduct a discussion that touches on the assessment metrics listed below, which emphasize the basic skills needed to be a good scientist. During the discussion, the teacher may expand and help define the meteorite and geologic vocabulary in context and encourage students to apply it to their own samples. Pay particular attention to vocabulary for the first six samples that use some words especially pertinent to meteorites.

Assessment

  • Did the students make detailed observations of a sample?

  • Was the task accomplished using teamwork?

  • Although the student's descriptions differed from those provided and each team had a different style, were the skills and processes used to observe and record the data the same for each group?

  • Did the students communicate their observations and then share their findings verbally and in writing?

Extensions

  • Using a Meteorite Sample Disk or photographs of one, students repeat the same procedure of observing and recording.