Maynard F Jordan Planetarium Banner
        Galaxy Maine menu buttonSpace Academy menu buttonMissions  menu buttonStarbase Orono  menu buttonObservatory  menu buttonSky News  menu button
Galaxy Margin Image












X-Tra Terrestrial Files Cosmic Classroom Guide
Upon making a reservation to attend The X-tra Terrestrial Files at the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium, you will receive a hard copy of the Cosmic Classroom Guide. In addition to the activities and vocabulary that you see here, the hard copy has sections that cover getting ready to do the activity, resources and materials that you will need, steps to follow from beginning to end, questions for class discussion and some continuations and extensions that you may want to add to the activity. Below is a listing of the activities that you will find in The X-tra Terrestrial Files guide accompanied by a description of the State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators and the State of Maine Learning Results Guiding Principles that will be addressed when you do that activity in your own classroom. In addition to these activities please make use of our resources and bibliography.


Invent an Alien

Planetary Probe

Hello Out There!

Light Years

Your Universal Address

Invent an Alien

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators:
Learners will be able to analyze the characteristics that allow organisms to survive in the environment of a given planet (5-8. Science and Technology. A. #3.)
Learners will be able to discuss the basic characteristics of all living things (Secondary. Science and Technology. A. #3.)
Learners will be able to create and use models of aliens to present the characteristics of the planets (5-8. Science and Technology. L. #4.) (Secondary. Science and Technology. L. #3., L. #5.)
The General Idea:
This activity is ideal to enhance a unit concerning the Solar System. The students goal is to construct a model of an Alien Being that could live on the planet they picked. These models can be made from any material they can find around the house, school, classroom, etc. and must be explained to the class as to why they have the features they do.

Planetary Probe

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators: Learners will be able to describe how they would use a planetary probe to gather data about the planet visited (Secondary. Science and Technology. G. #1.)
Learners will be able to explain that sending a planetary probe is a way of exploring space (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #4.)
Learners will be able to, when designing their planetary probe, take into account the features of a planet that would have an impact on the probe (3-4. Science and Technology. G. #1.) (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #5.)
Learners will be able to judge the practicality of including various items on a space probe.
The General Idea: This activity is for students who are studying the characteristics of planets, moons, or other celestial bodies, and now want to imagine actually exploring the atmosphere or surface. The process of selecting appropriate tools for the situation is one all scientists follow. This activity also encourages collaboration and compromise among group members.
Groups of students choose, or are assigned, a particular planet and design a probe by selecting specific tools to be used on a mission to the planet. Encourage students to decide what the purpose of their probe is to be before selecting the tools. Groups can create models or "blueprints" of their probe and explain their choices to the class.

Hello Out There!

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators: Learners will be able to explain that light takes time to travel. Learners will be able to show that distances must be very great in order for the consequences of the speed of light to become apparent (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #3.)
Learners will be able to demonstrate that a fundamental consequence of the finite speed of light is that we always see a star's past, not its present. (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #1.)
The General Idea: In common experience, it is assumed that light travels over any distance instantaneously. This is because the distances we normally encounter are relatively short and the speed of light is very great. However, light does take time to travel, and when the distances become great enough, this becomes apparent. An analogy can be made with sound, which travels more slowly than light. If the distance is great enough, there is a lag between seeing an event and hearing the sound that results from it. For example, when we see a bolt of lighting off in the distance, we see the flash of light before we hear the thunder. The light from the lighting reaches us before the sound does because sound travels much more slowly than light.
All forms of light travel at the same speed, 300.000 km/s. Radio waves, one form of light, are used to communicate with spacecraft. The signals now being received from a space probe take hours to reach Earth. The star Sirius (the brightest star as seen from Earth except for the Sun) is 9 light years away. This means that the light now reaching Earth from Sirius left the star nine years ago. If there were people on Sirius watching Earth, they would now be seeing what happened here nine years ago. All this is because light takes time to travel.

This activity is designed to help students understand that light does have a finite speed and that this has consequences for us. In order to grasp the meaning of the activity, it is important for students to understand that light acts as a messenger in the same way that a person can. Both transfer information from one point to another. How quickly the information is transferred depends on the speed of the messenger. Whether the messenger is a person or light. This activity assumes that the students are familiar with a light year.

Light Years

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators: Learners will be able to define the term light year (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #3.)
Learners will be able to explain how astronomers measure distances in space by light years (Secondary. Science and Technology. G. #3)
Learners will be able to explain the distances of some stars close to our solar system (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #1.)
The General Idea: Ever wonder why scientists felt the need to develop a new measure for distance? Last night, if it was clear, you might have seen the group of stars known as the Big Dipper. The closest of those stars is approximately 432 trillion miles away. Because of these vast distances, scientists created a new unit of measure called the light year.

Your Universal Address

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators:Learners will be able to describe our position in the universe, compared to the Sun, moon, stars, Milky Way, and other galaxies. (3-4. Science and Technology. G. #1.)
Learners will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the shape and position of our galaxy, the Milky Way. (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #2.) Learners will be able to visualize their location in school, city, state, country, world, solar system, and galaxy. (5-8. Social Studies. Geography. A. #1.) (this activity is best used in a post planetarium field trip lesson)
The General Idea: Usually you think of your address as only three or four lines long: your name, street, city, and state. But what if you were to address a letter to a friend in a distant galaxy? You would have to specify where you are to a much greater scale. How might you go beyond your town and state in order to complete your address? This activity helps students understand where we are in relation to the other planets, stars, and galaxies.

State of Maine Learning Results Guiding Principles

The lessons in the Cosmic Classroom Guide, in combination with The X-tra Terrestrial Files, help students to work towards some of the Guiding Principles set forth by the State of Maine Learning Results. By the simple act of visiting the planetarium, students of all ages open an avenue for self-directed lifelong learning. A field trip encourages students to think about learning from all environments including those beyond the school yard. A Jordan Planetarium visit also introduces visitors to the campus of the largest post-secondary school in Maine and encourages them to think of this as a place which holds opportunities for their future education, enjoyment and success.

Other sites on the University campus, including three museums, explore a variety of subjects, and the Visitors Center is always willing to arrange tours of the campus. A field trip can contribute to many different disciplines of the school curriculum and demonstrate that science is not separate from art, from mathematics, from history, etc. The world is not segregated into neat little boxes with labels such as social studies and science. A field trip is an opportunity for learning in an interdisciplinary setting, to bring it all together and to start the process of thinking. For a more complete discussion of field trips, please visit the Jordan Planetarium web site.

If used in its entirety and accompanied by the Planetarium visit this guide will help students to:

Become a clear and effective communicator through

A. oral expression such as class discussions, and written presentations
B. listening to classmates while doing group work, cooperation, and record keeping.
Become a self-directed and life long learner by
A. introducing students to career and educational opportunities at the University of Maine and the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium.
B. encouraging students to go further into the study of the subject at hand, and explore the question of "what if?"
C. giving students a chance to use a variety of resources for gathering information
Become a creative and practical problem solver by
A. asking students to observe phenomena and problems, and present solutions
B. urging students to ask extending questions and find answers to those questions
C. developing and applying problem solving techniques
D. encouraging alternative outcomes and solutions to presented problems
Become a collaborative and quality worker through
A. an understanding of the teamwork necessary to complete tasks
B. applying that understanding and working effectively in assigned groups
C. demonstrating a concern for the quality and accuracy needed to complete an activity
Become an integrative and informed thinker by
A. applying concepts learned in one subject area to solve problems and answer questions in another
B. participating in class discussion

State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators

In conjunction with the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium show The X-tra Terrestrial Files this guide will help you meet the following State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators in you classroom. For the complete State of Maine Learning Results Publication on-line, please visit

Grades 3-4
Science and Technology
G. Universe
#1. Illustrate the relative positions of the Sun, moon, and planets.

K. Scientific Reasoning
#1. Give alternative explanations for observed phenomena.

#2. Describe how feelings can distort reasoning.

English Language Arts
B. Literature and Culture
#3. Respond to speakers in a variety of ways.

Grades 5-8
Science and Technology

A. Classifying Life Forms
#1. Compare systems of classifying organisms including systems used by scientists.

#3. Describe some structural and behavioral adaptations that allow organisms to survive in a changing environment.

G. Universe
#1. Compare past and present knowledge about characteristics of stars and explain how people have learned about them.

#2. Describe the concept of galaxies, including size and number of stars.

#3. Compare and contrast distances and the time required to travel those distances on Earth, in the solar system, in the galaxy, and between galaxies.

#4. Describe scientists exploration of space and the objects they have found.

# 5. Describe the motions of moons, planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies.

J. Inquiry and Problem Solving
#5. Explain how personal bias can affect observations.

K. Scientific Reasoning
#1. Examine the ways people form generalizations.

#2. Identify exceptions to proposed generalizations.

L. Communication
#4. Make and use scale drawings, maps, and three dimensional models to represent real objects, find locations, and describe relationships.

Grades 9-12
Science and Technology

A. Classifying Life Forms
#3. Analyze the basic characteristics of living things, including their need for food, water, and gases and the ability to reproduce.

G. Universe
#1. Describe how scientists gather data about the universe.

#3. Explain how astronomers measure interstellar distances.

L. Communication
#3. Make and use appropriate symbols, pictures, diagrams, scale drawings, and models to represent and simplify real life situations and to solve problems.

#5. Critique models, stating how they do and do not effectively represent the real phenomenon.

U maine Logo

Contact | Star Shows | Public Shows | Field Trips | UMaine | Observatory

Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium, 5781 Wingate Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5781
Phone: (207) 581-1341