Lesson 6 of 8
Objective: Students will be able to determine the distribution of asteroids in the asteroid belt by using chocolate chip cookies as an analogy.
This lesson is based on California's Middle School Integrated Model of NGSS.
MS-ESS1-1 Earth's Place in the Universe
PE: MS-ESS1-3 Analyze and Interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the Solar System.
DCI: ESS1.B Earth and the Solar System - The Solar System consists of the Sun and a collection of objects including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the Sun by its gravitational pull on them.
SP2: Developing and Using Models - The model for this lesson is a broken chocolate chip cookie, which represents the distribution of asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. The same scientific principles that govern how a cookie is broken determines the size of asteroids. This emphasizes the concept that the same scientific laws that govern our everyday lives are also in effect in the cosmos, something the kids don't always understand. In this case the model (broken cookie) behaves identically to the real object (asteroid).
CCC: Scale, proportion, and quantity - the scale of distribution of a broken cookie mimics the scale of asteroid distribution. The same forces that are able to shatter a chocolate chip cookie are the same forces that occur when asteroids of large size collide to make smaller asteroids. The scale stays the same. Students are able to directly relate an everyday occurrence (broken cookie) to cosmic phenomenon (distribution of asteroids) using scale.
This lesson was originally inspired by "Cookie Asteroids" from GAVRT Training (Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope Training). Within the orbit of Mars and Jupiter lies a band of asteroids orbiting the Sun. This lesson simulates the distribution of asteroids within the asteroid belt. Students gently crush a chocolate chip cookie. Then, they count the broken pieces and sort then by size into four groups and produce a graph of their results. These results should mimic the distribution of asteroids in the asteroid belt. The data the students have generated with a broken cookie will be compared to the actual count of asteroids to determine if this activity produces similar real-world data sets.
- One crunchy chocolate chip cookie per group (do not use chewy type).
- Sandwich baggie
- Paper plate
- Place the chocolate chip cookie iin a sandwich bag and gently crush it. Do not pulverize the cookie into dust. There should be some large pieces.
- Pour the contents onto the paper plate.
- Separate out the pieces with your toothpick.
- Sort the crumbs by size and material.
At this point in the year I have stopped providing worksheets to assist with the activities. Students are expected to create their own data charts and graphs within their Interactive Science Notebook. They build their lab the night before as a homework assignment. Students who are unable to prepare their lab documents get to spend the day of the lab constructing their lab (at a segregated table) while the other students work on the lab. Once they're finished they have to play catch-up.
Their lab document must have:
- Essential question
- Data chart (provided on board)
- Graph (provided on board)
- Review questions (provided on board)
They must have a chart that allows them to collect data on the size of the cookie crumbs.
Sample Data Chart
Size of Fragments
Number of Fragments
whole to ½ cookie
½ - ¼ cookie
less than ¼ but larger than a crumb
They must also construct a graph in their Science Interactive Notebook. I suggest a line graph, but they are free to represent the data as they see fit.
Once students complete their graph they need to compare their cookie crumb results to the actual distribution of asteroids in the asteroid belt to see if their data compares accurately.
I have my students use their Chromebooks to visit the Asteroids by Size and Number website and compare their results to published data. I also print out this graph so it can exist in their lab sheet.
- What was your procedure for counting the broken cookie pieces?
- How did your results compare to the actual distribution of asteroids within the asteroid belt? Explain.
- Why do you think the broken cookie <did/did not> match the distribution of asteroids in the asteroid belt?
- Where you surprised by your results? Explain.
Lab (Student Activity)
The students are first given a chocolate chip cookie in a sandwich bag, a paper plate, and toothpicks. They set about separating the broken cookie into four categories (whole-1/2, 1/2-1/4, less than 1/4, and crumbs).
With the pieces sorted the students can begin counting the pieces.
Student Work Sample
The lab sheet is completed the night before in their Interactive Science Notebook. They had to have a title, an essential question, a hypothesis, a data chart and graph, a conclusion, and review questions.
The lab must be contained within one page of the notebook. This makes it easier for me to assess and score the notebook. As the students run out of room they attach another sheet of paper to the bottom. The lab sheet is then folded up into the notebook.