George's Secret Key To The Universe - Solar System
George’s Secret Key To The Universe by Lucy & Stephen Hawking is an exciting way into children learning about the solar system. George's lives next door to a scientist, Eric, his daughter, Annie and a super-intelligent computer called Cosmos. Cosmos can create a portal to the universe and Annie and George hitch a ride on a comet to zoom around the solar system. At the same time the villain, Mr Reeper steals Cosmos and sends Eric on a one way trip down a black hole. George rescues Cosmos and together they are able to save Eric. It is a fun read and contains lots of factual sections on the solar system, in between the chapters.
This story provides a good fictional context to:
Scientific Vocabulary: Earth, planets, Sun, solar system, Moon, sphere/spherical, rotate/rotation, spin, night and day, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, 'dwarf' planet, orbit, revolve, geocentric model, heliocentric model, shadow clocks, sundial.
Links and Resources
Eric and Annie are not afraid to ask the big questions. Are we alone in the universe? Is there life out there? These short videos are great for setting these questions to children to think about. It is important for children to imagine and dream about what could be out there. What do your children think?
Eric and Annie are passionate scientists. They long to uncover the secrets of the universe. In this film Tim Peake talks about why being an astronaut and working on the International Space Station is so important to him. Children could watch this and design their own job spec for becoming an astronaut - what skills and dispositions do you need to work in the ISS?
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for children to hold Moon rocks.Valuable samples of moon rock and soil were brought back to Earth by NASA's Apollo astronauts. STFC is the only authorised source for the loan of this precious material to educational or scientific organisations within the United Kingdom. Five educational packages are available free of charge (including special security delivery/collection) for short term loans of lunar samples and meteorites. The scheme is free of charge and managed by STFC.
In chapter nine, George and Annie hitch a ride on a comet. Their comet takes 184 years to orbit the solar system, wending its way around the planets. Comets are a collection of rock and ice. When it passes close to the Sun, warms and begins to give off gasses. This produces a visible atmosphere or coma, and sometimes also a tail.
Comets have been visited by unmanned probes such as the European Space Agency's Rosetta, which became the first ever to land a robotic spacecraft on a comet. These activities allow children to investigate such questions as why are there craters on the comet's surface? How could I land a probe on the surface of the comet? Why would my weight be different on comet? What is solar power and how was it used to power Rosetta?
In chapter 20 George and his friends discuss Mars at length. Is There Anyone Out There is a detailed resource full of fun investigations about Mars. Inspired by the Curiosity Mission, the children study images from Mars to note significant features and make hypotheses about their formation. They carry out and evaluate practical tasks to mimic crater formation, lava flow, and the creation of channels and deltas.
In chapter 8 Annie puts on her space suit. George doubts that Annie really goes into space until she shoves him through the portal and onto a comet which hurtles through the solar system.
Mission Starlight, by the Royal Society of Chemistry is a series of activities where children design a space suit for an astronaut. Without the protection of the atmosphere, astronauts are completely exposed to harmful UV radiation from the sun. So these investigations ask children to test the best materials for a visor and also the body of the suit. They need to consider the properties that the materials will need in order to function well - a solid, air tight vizor... or a flexible suit. Then, using UV beads the children test and select the best materials for the job.