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Planet Research Assignment Rubric

Getting Started:
First, get to know about your planet. Read as much information about the planet as you can find. Try both the Internet and the library; try the NASA web site, Zoom Astronomy, Nine Planets, a good search engine, an encyclopedia, and individual books on astronomy and the Solar System.

As you're reading about your planet, take notes on key information, such as your planet's size, temperature range, its position in the Solar System, moons, atmosphere, any unusual features, when it was discovered, etc. A graphic organizer can be useful for this.

The Structure of the Planet Report:
Start your report with an introductory paragraph that states the main ideas that you will be writing about. Then write at least four to five paragraphs that clearly describe your planet. Each paragraph should cover one topic (for example, you should have one paragraph that covers the planet's location in the Solar System, how far it is from the Sun, and how long its year is). End the report with a closing paragraph that summarizes what you wrote and learned.

Finally, cite your references (see the section below on formats for your bibliography).

Check that your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. Make sure to use complete sentences and write neatly! Define any technical terms that you use. Proofread your report for errors before you hand it in -- do not hand in a rough draft.

Topics to Research and Include in Your Report:
When you write your report, try to answer as many of the following questions as you can:

  • The Planet's Name: What does its name mean? Many planets were named after mythological gods.
  • Position in the Solar System: Where is your planet located (for example, Mars in the fourth planet from the Sun)? How far from the Sun does it orbit. Is its orbit unusual?
  • Rotation on its Axis: How long does it take for your planet to rotate on its own axis? (This is one day on your planet.)
  • Size: How big is your planet? How does it rate in terms of the other planets in terms of size (is it the biggest, the smallest)? What is your planet's mass?
  • Gravity: What is the force of gravity at the surface of your planet? For example, what would a 100-pound person weigh on that planet?
  • Orbit: How long does it take for your planet to orbit the Sun? (This is one year on your planet.)
  • Atmosphere: What is the composition of the atmosphere of your planet? Is it a thick or a thin atmosphere?
  • Temperature: What is the temperature range your planet? How does this compare to the temperature on Earth?
  • Composition of Your Planet and its Appearance: What type of planet is it (is it rocky or a gas giant)? What is its internal composition? What does your planet look like?
  • Moons: If there are moons orbiting your planet, describe them and when they were discovered.
  • Rings: If there are rings orbiting your planet, describe them and when they were discovered.
  • How Would a Human Being Fare on Your Planet: On your planet, would a person choke in the atmosphere, be squashed by the extreme gravity, float with ease, freeze, burn up, or something else?
  • Something Special: Is there anything special about your planet? This can often be the best part of the report, taking you off on interesting topics. For example, are there 100-year-long storms on your planet? Are there giant volcanos? Does your planet have a very tilted axis (giving it extreme seasons)? Have spacecraft visited your planet? If so, what have they discovered? Is your planet in an orbital resonance with another body?
  • Discovery of Your Planet: The planets that are not visible using the naked eye were discovered after the invention of the telescope (these are Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto). Tell when your planet was discovered and by whom.

Citing Your References: When you write your bibliography, list all of your references. Formats for each type of publication follows (there are different formats for different media):
  • Web Site: Author(s) if appropriate. Title of Site or web page. URL of site, date of publication (the earliest copyright year listed).
  • Book: Author(s). Title of book. Edition. Location of publisher: Name of Publisher, year of publication.
  • Encyclopedia:Title of encyclopedia, volume of encyclopedia used. Location of publisher: Name of Publisher, year of publication, pages where the article is located.
  • Magazine or Journal: Author(s). "Title of article." Name of magazine, Volume.issue (date): pages where the article is located.
Author(s) are listed last name first, first name or initials (as cited in the publication).

For example: would be cited as follows:

Col, Jeananda. 1999.

For more on EnchantedLearning's bibliography and author, click here.

Another format for Internet sources is as follows:

Last name, First name of author. Title of Page. Name of the publisher ( in our case). Date the page was created (at Enchanted Learning, this is the earliest date on the copyright notice located at the bottom of each page), Date of revision (at Enchanted Learning, we do not keep track of page revisions).

Some teachers also request that you include the date of access; this is the date (or dates) that you went to the web page (or pages).

The Following is a Rubric For Assessing each Part of Your Research Report:

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Space Colony WebQuest

This page will provide the purpose, objectives, and the process that will guide the teacher through the WebQuest.
Purpose: To investigate how the conditions on a planet affect the type of space colony that could be built in that environment.
Rationale: Students need to be able to analyze various systems and form ideas with the new information. By creating a model students put the information they have learned into a concrete product.
Learner Description: This WebQuest is designed for middle school students in Earth Science.
Instructional Objectives:After completing this WebQuest the student will be able to
  • examine planetary surface conditions.
  • infer what a space colony might look like on other planets.
  • design a space colony for a planet.
Standards Addressed:The Idaho State Standards for sixth grade that will be addressed with this WebQuest are:
  • 6S1.5.1 Analyze how the shape or form of an object or system is frequently related to its use and or function.
  • 6S1.6.4 Use evidence to analyze data in order to develop descriptions, explanations, predictions and models.
  • 6S1.1.1 Analyze different systems.
Subject Matter Description:The following sections of the WebQuest need to be completed by the student:
  • Introduction: This section provides questions that will be addressed and an image of our solar system.
  • Task: This section provides a brief overview of the tasks to be completed in the WebQuest. I have also included a short video clip for students to view about a colony idea for Mars.
  • Process: I share with the students some resources I have investigated before we begin this WebQuest. One great project I enjoy sharing is called Biosphere2. Here are some websites that include information about Biosphere2:
    Where Science Lives Biosphere2
    Images of Biosphere2
    These are sites you can share with the students to investigate.
  1. List the needs necessary for humans to survive. This should be discussed as a group after students have had time to list what they believe are human needs.
  2. Select one planet and research its surface conditions. The teacher may assign planets to students or let the students choose the planet they are interested in learning more about.
  3. Classify each of the surface conditions by answering all of the questions thoroughly. In two to three paragraphs students will describe the planet they have chosen or been assigned. This paper will be completed in a word processor. This assignment is a research project about one planet. Students need to thoroughly research the planet.
  4. Complete the table for the planet showing the surface conditions for the planet and the features the space colony would have to have so that humans could survive on the planet. Clarify for the students what information is needed to complete the table. Give examples.
  5. Design a space colony using your planets surface conditions. First draw a rough draft of the space colony you have created for your planet. This paper can be part of their grade. I make it worth 10 points. I have students show me their rough draft to ensure they are on the right track. Once the rough draft is shown to the teacher, each student will be given a 13x9 piece of construction paper to complete the final copy. Remind students to neatly label all parts of their colony.
  • Evaluation: Evaluate your design with the grading rubric that is provided. The students should be checking their work with the evaluation rubric throughout the project.
  • Conclusion: Conclude by reflecting on your project and completing the questions.The last step of the WebQuest will have the students completing the questions on the conclusion page. These questions can be added to their research paper.
Assessment:Students will produce a research paper and their design of a space colony. The students work will be graded using the rubric provided in the evaluation section of the WebQuest.