Science Activities for Star Wars Day!

May 3, 2017

Britannica Celebrates Star Wars Day with K-12 Science Activities

May the 4th be with you!  Don’t be surprised if you hear this pun several times this week, because Thursday, May 4, is Star Wars Day. Here at Britannica, we are channeling our inner Jedi and focusing on science and science fiction. Science fiction has a long tradition of examining humanity's relationship with technology and the unknown, particularly space exploration.

Science fiction was made possible by the notable advances in the sciences—especially astronomy and physics—that began in the Renaissance. Fantasy literature about life on Earth has existed for many centuries. New and powerful telescopes made it possible for humans to look to the skies and speculate on other possible worlds and different civilizations.

The activities below enable students to think creatively and use their imaginations, while learning about the REAL science that inspires the endless possibilities in this genre.

Elementary Level Activity: Design Your Own Spacecraft

Overview:

Students will put themselves in the shoes of a NASA engineer who is designing a new spacecraft. Have each student design a spacecraft, noting the features needed for survival and functionality versus the features designed for comfort and luxury.

Value:

This activity facilitates active reading and critical thinking.

Activity:

Have students gain an understanding of spacecraft and space exploration through reading informational text and viewing multimedia. Have students note the unique challenges of traveling in space and the needs of astronauts while they are in a spacecraft. Using the Claim-Reason-Evidence Graphic Organizer, students will list at least five features (make at least five claims) their spacecraft would need in order to successfully travel through space. Students need to note their reasons and provide evidence from the text that supports their claims. At least four of the claims need to relate to the functionality of a spacecraft in space and the remainder can be for comfort or luxury.

CLAIM: A statement that is arguable

REASON: A statement that supports the claim

EVIDENCE: Supports the reason and gives proof to the claim

Suggested Questions:

• What is the real science behind your spacecraft?

• Why was it important to include these features in/on your spacecraft?

• What makes your spacecraft fictional?

• How many days could you spend on your spacecraft?

Possible Extension: 

Have students sketch or create a model of their spacecraft.

Suggested Resources:

The Britannica LaunchPacks: Science Spacecraft and Space Exploration Pack for Grades 3-5 and the Space Exploration Pack for Grades 3-5

Middle Level Activity: Galactic Adaptation

Overview:

Students will examine the adaptation of living things on Earth and design a fictional planet with a unique environment and living things. Using evidence from the environmentally caused animal adaptations that occurred on Earth, students will provide examples of how their fictional planet’s environment led to adaptations of its fictional inhabitants.

Value:

This activity prepares students to construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptations of populations.

Activity:

Have students form an understanding of multiple adaptations of living things on Earth by using informational text and multimedia.  Have students develop characteristics of a fictional planet, including the environment, the history of the planet's environment, and living things.  Have students determine possible adaptations of living things caused by the environment or a possible change in the environment through time.

Suggested Questions:

• What are some examples of forms or features that have evolved by natural selection for a specific function on Earth?

• What are the similarities and differences between your fictional planet and Earth?

• How do these similarities and differences affect how your fictional living things adapted?

Possible Extension: 

Have students write an encyclopedia article about the adaptations of a single living thing on their fictional planet.  Have them use an existing article to mirror craft and structure.

Suggested Resources:

The Britannica LaunchPacks: Science Living Things: Adaptations Pack for Grades 6-8, the Animals and their Habitats Pack for Grades 6-8, and the Charles Darwin Pack for Grades 6-8

High Level Activity: Artificial Intelligence Effect on Humans

Overview:

Students will examine the effect of artificial intelligence on the human population as it is today and predict future effects of artificial intelligence advances.

Value:

This activity promotes active reading and inquiry-based learning.

Activity:

Have students gain an understanding of artificial intelligence through reading informational text and viewing multimedia. Using the Cause & Effect Graphic Organizer, students will identify the relationship between an increase in artificial intelligence and the effect on the human population (both positive and negative).  Students will then speculate on how advancements in artificial intelligence could affect humans in the future.

Suggested Questions:

• How does artificial intelligence potentially benefit or harm the environment?

• How has artificial intelligence affected job opportunities for humans (both positively and negatively)?  Provide evidence from text and multimedia to support your claim.

• What might the effects of future advancement in artificial intelligence do to the job opportunities of humans?

Possible Extension: 

Have students take a stance on if artificial intelligence is more helpful or hurtful to the human population.  Ask them to defend their stance on the issue by making a claim, stating their reasons, and supporting them with evidence. Have them use the Claim-Reason-Evidence II Graphic Organizer and be prepared to debate their case in class.

Suggested Resources:

The Britannica LaunchPacks: Science Robotics Pack for Grades 9-12, the Computers and Computing Pack for Grades 9-12, and the Alan Turing Pack for Grades 9-12

I hope these activities help your students to channel their inner Jedi for Star Wars Day (and every day)! I’ve shared suggested resources from Britannica’s newest classroom tool, Britannica LaunchPacks: Science. Get free access now, or use these strategies with your own classroom resources.