Dave Burzillo, BHP Teacher
Massachusetts, USA

Making Craters, in Lesson 5.4, is one of a series of new science activities recently added to Big History to engage student interest in science through experiment, observation, and data analysis. Lesson 5.4 focuses on the impact of cosmic collisions with Earth, and this hands-on activity asks students to make predictions about how the size, speed, and angle of meteorites (which are represented by rocks of varying size in this classroom experiment) might affect the characteristics of the craters they create.

Giordano Bruno crater on the moon. Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

My students worked in groups to make predictions about the impacts of small, medium, and large rocks. They then tested their predictions by dropping the rocks from different heights into pans of flour covered with cocoa powder. Students then observed and measured the “craters” that their “meteorites” created, and compared their observations with their predictions.

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My students enjoyed the activity and really got into measuring the depths and diameters of the craters. They also enjoyed messing up the room a bit—this activity led to some dirty desks and floor space! Most found confirmation in their predictions that larger rocks would create larger craters, but there was a wider range of results when it came to the impacts of angle and speed. Some found that their medium-sized rocks created bigger craters than the larger rocks, and they concluded that the shape of the rock influenced these results.

This activity was a good way to introduce our study of the dinosaur extinction, and students had fun doing it. It was worth the clean-up!

About the author: Dave has taught for over 30 years, more than 25 of them at his current school, a private high school in Weston, MA. For the last 7 years, he has taught BHP to ninth-, eleventh-, and twelfth-graders. His school runs on a trimester system, which gives him about 90 days to cover 13.8 billion years of history in each class. He has 12-16 students in each class. Recently, Dave began offering an online BHP course in the summer.

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