Monday, November 26, 2018

Is Anyone Out There: Investigating craters

Full details of the activities can be found in the CIEC resource 'Is There Anyone Out There?' which can be downloaded from
The activities in this free resource, written in conjunction with the UK Space Education Agency and ESERO UK, look at the ways that scientists carry out investigations, using data such as photographs and other images, to find out about Mars and other places that are too far away for humans to visit.  Activities include looking for signs of life, comparing samples of Martian soil with soil from earth and finding out about volcanos and lava.  The activity described here invites children to investigate the effect of meteor size, mass and the height from which the meteors have fallen on the resulting craters.

The Activity: Investigating Craters

  • Challenge cards from activity sheet 8 (see image below)
  • Tray half filled with sand
  •  A variety of ‘meteorites’ (eg. marbles, rubber balls, stones)
  • Tube for safely directing/dropping/rolling ‘meteorites’
  •  Measuring device (see online resource for instructions to make one of these)
  •  Ruler·        
  • Meter stick

  • Children start by investigating the effect of dropping various masses into a tray of sand.  They then discuss which variables effect the size, shape and depth of the resulting craters.
Different groups of children are given one of the challenge cards and invited to design a fair test in response to the challenge posed.

  • Groups of children then plan and carry out different investigations depending upon the challenge card that they have been given.·         
  • After they have completed the investigation and collated their results children are invited to compare the craters that they have made with photographs of craters on Mars, to comment upon whether or not they are similar in appearance and to discuss how useful they are as a model to find out more about real craters
This table shows the depth of crater produced when dropping meteorites of identical volume but increasing mass.

  • They are also asked to think about whether their tests were fair, their results reliable and whether there are any improvements that they could make to their investigations.
  • Because this activity provides lots of scope for taking measurements and making tables it could usefully take place in a relevant maths lesson. The ensuing discussion could then take place in a subsequent science lesson.

  • To make meteorites which are the same size but different masses try wrapping objects of different mass in plasticine    

Health and Safety
  • To increase the height dropped put the tray on the floor rather than standing on a raised surface.
  • Dropping the meteorite through a tube can help to ensure that it lands safely in the tray.

Working Scientifically:
  • Take measurements, using a range of scientific equipment with increasing accuracy and precision, taking repeat readings when appropriate.
  • Report and present findings from enquiries, including conclusions, causal relationships and explanations of and degree of trust in results.