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STC-Middle School™, STC3 Edition: Space Systems Exploration (©2018) 1-Class Unit Kit

(in stock)


Grades 6–8. Unit Driving Question—What can we observe and learn about the universe from our earthly perspective? Unit Highlight—Using physical and mathematical models and data analysis, students develop a thorough understanding of the Sun-Earth-Moon system and our entire solar system. They apply what they learn to investigate the criteria and constraints involved with space exploration. As part of the unit assessment, students use those criteria and constraints to engineer a solution to human habitation on another celestial body.

Students of all ages have an innate curiosity about our solar system and the broader universe. The Space Systems Exploration unit taps into this curiosity by helping students clarify what they already know about space. Then, starting with the Sun-Earth-Moon system, the unit challenges them to perform a series of investigations through which they extend and enrich this knowledge.

STCMS™: Space Systems Exploration supports students' growth in science and engineering through engagement in these types of investigations and activities. This unit addresses Next Generation Science Standards* (NGSS) performance expectations, disciplinary core ideas, associated science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts for grades 6 through 8. It allows students to experience phenomena that they find fascinating and exciting and that often make headline news. By completing this unit, students and teachers alike develop a better understanding of the relationships among the bodies within our solar system and beyond.

To structure and scaffold the development of students' knowledge, skills, and cognitive reasoning, this unit includes three primary lesson types: pre-assessment, skills and knowledge building, and assessment. The pre-assessment lesson allows educators to assess students' preconceptions, misconceptions, and skills. Skills and knowledge building lessons provide multiple opportunities for students to grow and learn through formative assessment. The assessment lesson includes both performance and written assessment activities that function together as a summative assessment of students' learning.

This 1-Class Unit Kit comes with a Teacher Edition, teacher access to Carolinascienceonline.com, 16 reusable hardbound Student Guides (item #512923), student eBook access, and the materials needed for a teacher to teach a class of up to 32 students.

Next Generation Science Standards*
Performance Expectations

  • MS-ESS1-1. Develop and use a model of the Earth-Sun-Moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the Sun and Moon, and seasons.
  • MS-ESS1-2. Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
  • MS-ESS1-3. Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.
  • MS-PS2-4. Construct and present arguments using evidence to support the claim that gravitational interactions are attractive and depend on the masses of interacting objects.
  • MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS1.A: The universe and its stars
  • ESS1.B: Earth and the solar system
  • PS2.B: Types of interactions
  • ETS1.A: Defining and delimiting engineering problems
  • ETS1.B: Developing possible solutions

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Systems and system models
  • Patterns
  • Cause and effect
  • Scale, proportion, and quantity
  • Scientific knowledge assumes an order and consistency in natural systems
  • Interdependence of science, engineering, and technology
  • Influence of science, engineering, and technology on society and the natural world

Common Core
English Language Arts

  • RST.6-8.1-Key idea and details
  • RST.6-8.2-Key idea and details
  • RST.6-8.3-Key idea and details
  • RST.6-8.4-Craft and structure
  • RST.6-8.6-Craft and structure
  • RST.6-8.7-Integration of knowledge and ideas
  • RST.6-8.8-Integration of knowledge and ideas
  • RST.6-8.9-Integration of knowledge and ideas
  • RST.6-8.10-Range of reading and level of text complexity
  • SL.6-8.1-Comprehension and collaboration
  • SL.6-8.4-Presentation of knowledge and ideas
  • SL.6-8.5-Presentation of knowledge and ideas
  • WHST.6-8.1-Text types and purposes
  • WHST.6-8.2-Text types and purposes
  • WHST.6-8.4-Production and distribution of writing
  • WHST.6-8.7-Research to build and present knowledge
  • WHST.6-8.8-Research to build and present knowledge
  • WHST.6-8.9-Research to build and present knowledge


  • MP2-Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  • MP4-Model with mathematics
  • MP5-Use appropriate tools strategically
  • MP6-Attend to precision
  • 6.RP.A.3-Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems
  • 8.F.B.5-Use functions to model relationships between quantities
  • 8.SP.A.1-Investigate patterns of association in bivariate data

Lesson Summaries
Lesson 1: Pre-Assessment

Focus Question: What do you know about how space is explored? Students conduct a series of investigations to reveal what they know about the properties of scale models, lunar phases, the Sun-Earth-Moon system, and the relationship between mass and gravity in the solar system.
Lesson 2: The Sun-Earth-Moon System
Focus Question: What cycles occur on Earth due to the interactions of the sun, Earth, and the moon?
Students develop and use a model to analyze and interpret the cyclic patterns caused by the rotations and orbits of Earth and the moon. They construct explanations about how the orbits of Earth and the moon relate to the Gregorian calendar.
Lesson 3: Why Earth’s Tilt Matters
Focus Question: Why does Earth have seasons?
Students use models to investigate how Earth's tilted axis changes the distribution of solar energy on Earth's surface as the planet orbits the sun. They explore shadow phenomena and gather evidence of seasonality patterns and additional cause-and-effect relationships associated with Earth's tilted axis.
Lesson 4: Investigating Lunar Patterns
Focus Question: Why do patterns in the moon's appearance occur?
Students use models to investigate patterns and changes in the appearance of the moon as it orbits Earth and how these changes relate to the positions of the sun, Earth, and the moon. They also analyze tidal data and infer how the lunar cycle affects tides.
Lesson 5: Solar and Lunar Eclipses
Focus Question: What causes solar and lunar eclipses?
Students use models to investigate how the arrangement of orbital planes within the Sun-Earth-Moon system create the special circumstances needed for eclipses to occur.
Lesson 6: Modeling the Solar System
Focus Question: How can we use models to understand the relative sizes of bodies in the solar system and the distances between them?
Students research the Apollo 11 space mission and determine the criteria and constraints engineers had to address to make possible manned space travel to our closest celestial body, the moon. Students then develop a scaled model of the solar system to observe the varying sizes of and distances between the planetary bodies. They use their models to make predictions about the seasonality of climates on other planets and the likelihood of space travel to the planets.
Lesson 7: Gravity: Bending Space-Time
Focus Question: How does gravity influence our solar system?
Students compare the weight of an object on different planets with respect to each planet's mass and diameter. They use a physical model to investigate gravitational attraction between objects of different masses. Students analyze their observations and results to construct scientific explanations using the claims, evidence, and reasoning (CER) strategy.
Lesson 8: Gravity's Role in the Universe
Focus Question: How do planets and moons stay in their specific orbits to maintain the structure of our solar system?
Students use both a digital and a physical model to explore the relationships between planetary mass, the distances between planets and moons, and the resulting speed of an orbiting body. They also use evidence to construct an explanation for how gravity affects the orbital properties of planets and their moons.
Lesson 9: The Challenges of Space Exploration
Focus Question: What are the criteria and constraints for humans to live in space?
Students research the conditions and composition of Mars and compare them to Earth's conditions and composition. They determine the criteria and constraints involved with space travel to and habitation on a planet like Mars. Finally, students construct an evidence-based argument for or against long-term habitation on another celestial body.
Lesson 10: Assessment
Focus Question: What can we observe and learn about the universe from our earthly perspective?
The unit concludes with a two-part assessment. In a performance assessment, students design a model for human habitation in space by analyzing planetary conditions, implementing design criteria, planning and modeling design solutions, and evaluating competing designs. In the second part, students complete a written assessment covering the performance expectations, disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices covered in the unit.

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of WestEd. Neither WestEd nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.

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What’s Included:
  • Space Systems Exploration Teacher Edition
  • 16 Space Systems Exploration Student Guide
  • 12 Balloon, Round, Yellow, 11"
  • 8 Board Set, Sun-Earth-Moon
  • 16 Bookend, Nonslip Base, Small
  • 8 Clamp Lamp, with Reflector
  • 1 Clay, Modeling, Green, 1/4 lb
  • 1 Container, Storage, Red, King
  • 12 Cylinder, Closed, 2.5 x 15 cm
  • 120 Dot, Adhesive, 3/4"
  • 8 Flashlight, Mini, with Batteries
  • 8 Globe, World, 12 cm (5")
  • 8 Hoop, Quilting, 58 cm (23")
  • 1 Line, Nylon, Braid, Black, #12, 60 yd
  • 16 Marble
  • 8 "Modeling Shadows" Sheet, 30 x 60 cm
  • 8 Photo Cards, Planets
  • 100 Push Pins
  • 8 Radiometer, Marked Blade
  • 8 Rubber, Synthetic, Sheet, 27 x 27"
  • 8 Ruler, Plastic, Metric (12")
  • 8 Screw Eye, 1/4" ID x 1-1/8" OD
  • 25 Sphere, Styrene, 1-7/16"
  • 25 Sphere, Styrene, 7.5 cm (3")
  • 8 Sphere, Styrene, 1/2"
  • 1 String, Super Twine, 200-ft Roll
  • 8 Tape, Measuring, 150 cm (60")
  • 250 Toothpick, Multi-Color
  • 8 Tubing, Polyethylene, 10 cm
  • 200 Washer, Flat, USS, 5/16"
Return Policy:

If for any reason you are not satisfied with this item, it is eligible for a return, exchange, refund, or credit up to 180 days from date of purchase. Restrictions may apply. Returns & Exchanges Policy.