Snow Goggles and Limiting Sunlight
Grade Level: 5-8
Duration: 1 - 2 hours
Although different kinds of radiation are helpful to human activities, too much of it can be harmful. The purpose of this lesson is to illustrate the use of the scientific method to solve problems of too much radiation. By studying ancient solutions to the issue of excessive sunlight on human vision, we can better understand the process of designing solutions to similar problems for spacecraft, such as the MESSENGER mission to Mercury. Students build snow goggles similar to those used by the Inuit people. The goggles are designed to block unwanted light, while increasing the viewer’s ability to see in a bright region. Students also create their own version of the goggles to improve upon existing designs. Students compare the process used to invent snow goggles with that employed by the MESSENGER mission designers. As a result, they discover that the basic principles of using the scientific method for solving problems are the same, regardless of whether the exact solution to the problem is the same.
How can the scientific method be used to solve different kinds of problems?
The scientific method can be used to solve a variety of problems.
Sunlight is necessary for many different purposes (such as hunting or observing the properties of planets), but too much of it can be dangerous.
MESSENGER Mission Connection
We need some sunlight to see, but too much may be harmful to our eyes. In a similar way, the MESSENGER spacecraft needs some sunlight to operate and to observe Mercury, but too much of it can heat it up and cause damage.
Standards & Benchmarks
NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS
Standard A1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
- Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations: Students should develop the ability to refine and refocus broad and ill-defined questions. An important aspect of this ability consists of students’ ability to clarify questions and inquiries and direct them toward objects and phenomena that can be described, explained, or predicted by scientific investigations. Students should develop the ability to identify their questions with scientific ideas, concepts, and quantitative relationships that guide investigation.
Standard A2: Understandings about scientific inquiry
- Different kinds of questions suggest different kinds of scientific investigations. Some investigations involve observing and describing objects, organisms, or events; some involve collecting specimens; some involve experiments; some involve seeking more information; some involve discovery of new objects and phenomena; and some involve making models.
Standard E1: Abilities of technological design
- Students should develop their abilities by identifying a specified need, considering its various aspects, and talking to different potential users or beneficiaries. They should appreciate that for some needs, the cultural backgrounds and beliefs of different groups can affect the criteria for a suitable product.
Standard E2: Understandings about science and technology
- Many different people in different cultures have made and continue to make contributions to science and technology.
BENCHMARKS FOR SCIENTIFIC LITERACY (AAAS PROJECT 2061)
- Something can be "seen" when light waves emitted or reflected by it enter the eye—just as something can be "heard" when sound waves from it enter the ear.
- Different models can be used to represent the same thing. What kind of a model to use and how complex it should be depends on its purpose. The usefulness of a model may be limited if it is too simple or if it is needlessly complicated. Choosing a useful model is one of the instances in which intuition and creativity come into play in science, mathematics, and engineering.
- Inspect, disassemble, and reassemble simple mechanical devices and describe what the various parts are for; estimate the effect that making a change in one part of the system is likely to have on the system as a whole.