Teaching overview

Learning points

Part 1

  • Litter and debris that’s left in space is known as space junk.
  • Even small pieces of space junk can damage satellites.
  • Today, there are more than 170 million pieces of space junk in orbit around Earth.

Curriculum keywords

  • Materials
  • Forces
  • Environmental impact
  • Space
  • Pollution
  • Technology
  • Energy
  • STEM

Learning points

Part 2

  • The International Space Station can be steered out of the way of any large pieces of debris.
  • A Whipple shield protects the ISS from smaller pieces of space junk.
  • Scientists are investigating ways of clearing up space junk, such as using nets or magnets.

Spark a discussion

  • What do you think the word “junk” means? Can you give some examples of junk?
  • Did you see any rubbish/junk on the way to school? If so, what?
  • Why is rubbish/junk a problem?
  • What happens to our rubbish? Where does it go?
  • What in the film did you find most interesting?
  • Why is space junk a problem?
  • What do you think should be done about the amount of space junk orbiting Earth?
  • Who would be affected by space junk? Are you?

Multimedia toolbox

Litter

Show this visual before the films to spark a class discussion about rubbish.

ISS clip

Play this clip before the film and discuss what it would be like to live in space, and why it might be dangerous.

Space junk
Debris in orbit around the Earth.
Debris in orbit around the Earth.

Space junk

Show this visual after the films to reinforce key scientific language.

Satellite
An object or celestial body in orbit around the Earth or another planet.
An object or celestial body in orbit around the Earth or another planet.

Satellite

An object or celestial body in orbit around the Earth or another planet.

Whipple shield
A shield that is made up of different layers to protect spacecraft from collisions.
A shield that is made up of different layers to protect spacecraft from collisions.

Whipple shield

Show this visual after the films to reinforce key scientific language.

Whipple shield layers

Show this visual after the films and talk in more detail about the three layers of the protective Whipple shield.

Activities

Egg shield challenge

DESIGN and build egg shields by testing which materials offer the most protection from collisions.

Open detailed instructions

Other activity ideas

  • CREATE posters showing different solutions to the issue of space junk.
  • WRITE a story about what it would be like to live on the International Space Station.
  • INVESTIGATE forces and collisions using marbles and ramps.
  • RESEARCH the number of satellites launched each year, and why they are important to us.
Print this sheet

Egg shield challenge

Duration: 35 minutes

Resources:

  • A selection of materials, e.g. fabrics, bubble wrap, polystyrene, paper, cardboard, sponge and aluminium foil
  • Sticky tape
  • A hard-boiled egg (in its shell)

Key Learning:

This activity challenges the students to prevent an egg from cracking when dropped from a height. This develops their understanding of protective materials that reduce the damage caused by a collision.

Activity instructions:

  1. Tell the students they are going to investigate different materials by seeing how well they protect an egg.
  2. To get the students thinking about protective materials, ask the following questions and discuss:
    • Why are eggs sold in soft cardboard boxes?
    • What are bike helmets made of?
    • Are they made of different materials?
    • Do they have different layers?
    • If you were moving house, how would you pack the most fragile items?
  3. Organise the students into groups and give each group a selection of materials.
  4. Ask the groups to predict which materials they think will provide the best protection, and which they will provide the worst protection.
  5. Give each group an egg and provide sticky tape so they can create their two-layer “egg shield”.
  6. Ask the groups to choose two materials to wrap around their egg, and explain why they chose each material.
  7. Invite the groups to take it in turns to drop the eggs from a height of 2 metres.
  8. Ask the groups to unwrap their eggs and inspect the damage.
  9. Compare the results as a class. Encourage the students to explain their findings using the following questions:
    • Were the eggs damaged?
    • Did any eggs have no cracks?
    • Which material provided the best protection?
    • Which material provided the worst protection?
    • Why do some materials provide better protection than others?

Background information

  • An orbit is the curved movement of one object around another, caused by gravitational force.
  • Earth’s gravity keeps the Moon and other satellites in orbit.
  • Pieces of space junk travel at speeds up to 28,000 km/h, which is fast enough for even tiny paint flecks to damage spacecraft or satellites.
  • We use satellites for lots of things, including communication, sat nav systems and satellite TV. Space junk could affect things that we take for granted.

Glossary

Space junk
Debris in orbit around the Earth.
Satellite
An object or celestial body in orbit around the Earth or another planet.
Whipple shield
A shield that is made up of different layers to protect spacecraft from collisions.

Explore our resources

Complete your lesson with teaching resources on gravity from Tigtag.

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Discover free online CPD for primary science from Reach Out CPD.

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