QLS Learning Experience: Exploring Exoplanets in Astronomy


QLS Learning Experience: Exploring Exoplanets in Astronomy
QLS Learning Experience: Exploring Exoplanets in Astronomy

Mr. Hewes' astronomy students went beyond the solar system this week as they explored exoplanets. Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars outside of our solar system.

For their assignment students chose an existing exoplanet—one that has been discovered and analyzed by NASA—and speculated on what aliens living on the planet might be like based on the known properties of the planet.

"A few years ago, NASA put out some travel posters for destinations both within our solar system and outside of it," said Mr. Matthew Hewes, astronomy instructor at Quarry Lane School. "I gave an assignment to my Astronomy students this year to make a few of their own, imagining a future in which we have colonized our solar system and have set up tourist destinations in all of the interesting places. Their submissions blew me away and made me want to give them more creative assignments, which is what led to this assignment here."

Students were encouraged to tap into their creativity in presenting life on their exoplanets through videos, posters, stories and other creative outlets. Students Annabelle O. and Allyson K. created a movie trailer and mock-broadcast news show featuring life on the planet, Zarmina—a tidally locked planet where one half is permanently light and the other permanently dark. Manthan S. also chose Zarmina for his short story about scientists' discovery of alien life transmissions. Malina G. and Risha K. also chose to create a movie trailer. With Malina as producer and Risha as screenwriter, their trailer featured a movie about planet PSR 1257+12b, a planet orbiting a pulsar, one that creates a lot of radiation but receives very little light. Other projects included travel posters, classified government files and a series of diary entries on planets that were covered entirely in water, had two suns but were ice cold, or orbiting the closest star to Earth.

"I gave the students much more freedom in the creative department for this assignment, as long as they kept it fact-based and included the relevant science," explained Mr. Hewes. "They outdid themselves by another order of magnitude beyond my already high expectations and have spent this whole year basically being as amazing as any teacher could want from a class."

Enjoy a few glimpses from some of the projects below!

Image: Annabelle O. and Allyson K.'s video presentation

Image: Malina G. and Risha K.'s video presentation

Image: Jasmi A's website presentation

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