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Curriculum with an Impact

The Barringer Meteorite Crater curriculum is an inquiry-­based 10-­day unit that takes students from observers to experimenters to educated participants in the investigation of the scientific processes of impact cratering. Below you’ll see the descriptions of the individual lessons as well as links to the lesson plans, teacher keys, and student handouts. 

Lesson 1: Volcanic vs. Impact Craters

This lesson orients the students to the existence of impact craters in our solar system. Students study different craters on the Moon and Mars, applying the criteria for impact craters and volcanic craters. Through their exploration, students will realize how prolific impact craters are in our solar system and develop questions about why impact craters on Earth are less common or harder to see than impact craters on the Moon and Mars.

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Lesson 2: Where on Earth are Impacts?

This lesson introduces students to the hundreds of impact craters on Earth in a fun global competition. In their search for craters, students will broaden their scientific perspectives to the seven continents, a variety of target rocks, longitude and latitude, diameters, and age in millions of years.

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Lesson 3: Observing Impacts

This lesson teaches the students to analyze the effect of impacts by studying models of impact events and recording data. Through close observations and data­gathering, students will master scientific vocabulary and gain a deeper understanding of the scientific process of an impact.

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Lesson 4: Are Craters Always Round?

This lesson is a hands­-on experience in which students experiment with the trajectory angle of an impactor and the resulting shape of the impact. They will discover for themselves how the trajectory of a meteorite and the shape of the resulting crater are related. This experiment will introduce them to an important question in the debate over the origin of the Barringer Meteorite Crater and craters on the Moon: Why are most craters circular?

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Lesson 5: Impact Scenarios

This lesson has students apply all they have learned about impact events to an online tool that takes multiple impact variables and produces data to show a full picture of all the environmental effects of the impact. Students apply mathematical thinking as they experiment with different variables such as size and speed to see how each affects the resulting impact.

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Lesson 6: Battle for Impact Theory

This lesson leverages the students’ new knowledge about craters in a narrative of the scientific battle for impact theory that stretched from 1902 to the 1960s. Students analyze a scientific slideshow that follows the journey of Daniel Moreau Barringer in his quest for scientific acceptance and a financial windfall. The students tackle a scientific writing by an impact specialist, Dr. David Kring, that discusses all the key points about the Barringer Meteorite Crater formation and identification, and the students analyze the strengths and weaknesses of different scientific theories.

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Lesson 7: Impact Craters­ Final Assessment and Reflection

This lesson has the students reflect on all the big questions and answers on the scientific processes involving impact craters, showing their learning through written responses or presentations.

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Next Generation Science Standards

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