This unit emphasizes literacy skills for STEAM students, using the Planeterella Experiment to learn about aurorae. Guided by text-dependent questions, students will study and gather evidence from anchor and supplemental texts on the Planterella’s design, purpose and history, magnetic currents and their role in aurorae, the Van Allen Belt, the Lorenz Effect, and how global warming impacts aurorae. Students will perform experiments with magnetic currents and create a lab simulation of the aurora borealis using textual evidence and data from the anchor and supplemental texts. Students will present their findings and their experiments using the Tricaster TC40.
Career and Technical Education
High School
Grade 9, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Unit of Study
Date Added:
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
Media Format:


Nathan Carle on Sep 28, 08:13pm

As a physics guy I appreciate the engaging hands on activities with electromagnetism. The text set is well thought out and appropriate. Not sure where all of the text fit into the day by day lessons.
The rubric helps assess students understanding of models but I'm not sure if it is assessing a computer simulation or another part of the project. It would be great if the students were assessed on their understanding on how their physical model represented the aurora and what the limitations of their model are.

Sarah Hale on Sep 25, 04:55pm

I was really drawn to this topic, I think, because the Aurora Borealis is so fascinating whether you’re into science or not. The lesson does a great job in demystifying the Aurora Borealis in a way that heightens appreciation of this natural wonder. I appreciate that the team creating this unit presented it as a STEAM project (adding Art), although after reading through the unit, I’m not sure that art came through. Perhaps I just missed it…

That said, I feel this unit was well-supported by the anchor text and other readings, video, Planeterrella experiment, and great hands-on activities. I liked that you started the unit with the activities, letting students acquire essential vocabulary in the context of observational learning. I can see how that sets students up nicely for the anchor text. Also, while the astronomical science can be somewhat abstract, magnets and magnetism are familiar to all students and easily observable.

In Lesson 4, the TriCaster project sounds amazing, but I’m not quite clear how the logistics work. I understand that the students in the course do not necessarily have to know how to use TriCaster, and that the TV crew puts it together. Is this a coordinated project with a broadcasting class? In any case, it seems to me that teachers reading this unit should feel confident that they can accomplish the learning outcomes by substituting an alternate presentation format, such as a simpler video that the students, themselves, create to present their learning.

Helen Brock on Sep 24, 08:23am

This unit is so interesting! Students will surely enjoy all of the hands-on experiments to develop an understanding of magnetism and aurorae. I really like the variety of materials and media involved and the opportunity for a lot of experimentation.
More positives:
1. Days 1-5 Lessons, experiments, and worksheets support understanding of background knowledge and science before reading the anchor text and working toward final project.
2. Summative Rubric with standards as the attributes
3. Inclusion of lesson specific vocabulary words. Question: Will vocabulary sheets be provided?
4. Use of OER and TED-Ed supplemental texts. Question: When are these assigned? The NASA text questions refer to a comparison with anchor text for example.
5. Like the broadcast idea and hope students know this is the goal so filming occurs throughout the unit. Question: Will one day will be enough for script development and image production?

Things to fix:
Parts II and III have some typos and/or words missing so clarity is reduced.
Day 5: hyperlink needed for text
Day 6: anchor text link is not the one described earlier in the article. This is a supplemental text or did the anchor text change? Where are the questions associated with it? The Anchor text questions stated earlier match the link for the article given in that section.
Under Communication in Summative Rubric, levels 3 & 4 do not include publishing and use of digital media.
Questions stated above in "Like" section.


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