"How High is Space?" is designed for use in middle grades, but can be used for high school students or informal education as well. Students create a scale model with each piece of 8 1/2" x 11" paper representing 100 km of the atmosphere, and a total of eight sheets of paper.
Activity: How High is Space?
After years of using this activity with teachers and students, we recommend using the activity the following way, just as we do in our educator workshops:
Materials needed per small group of students: scissors, transparent tape or glue sticks, markers (optional), handouts from this activity (single-sided for the scale model atmosphere and picture pages).
- Give each small group of two to three students the eight model pages to assemble with either tape or glue sticks, along with the sheet of model pictures.
- Have the students assemble the eight pieces of paper into one long sheet, with either tape or glue sticks.
- Ask the students to cut out the model pictures and make predictions, as a group, on where they think airplane, mountain top, clouds, International Space Station, etc., could be found in the model. The three images of C/NOFs, the spacecraft carrying CINDI, for lowest, average, and highest altitudes can be used to discuss satellites with elliptical orbits. (Note: orbits tend to be ellipses, but many orbits, like that of the Earth around the Sun are almost perfect circles.)
- Ask the students to cut out and physically lay the pictures down on their model but NOT to tape or glue down their pictures.
- Hand out the Layers of the Atmosphere Information sheet for the students to work with, and at least Part 1 of the "How High is Space?" student table. (Part 2 involves an investigation for students, and the teacher may wish to create higher order questions than provided. Part 2 of this activity is undergoing revision.)
- Have students compare their predictions with the altitudes given in Table 1, move the pictures to their appropriate locations, and tape or glue them down to their scale model.
- Add layers of the atmosphere, information on density, temperature, etc., as desired.
Scale Model Atmosphere Sheets
In the next activity, "Where Would CINDI Be?" deals with Scale in the Earth-Moon System. The activity is designed to tie into this one, but each can be used independently.