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Craters! Can We Simulate How Craters Are Formed and Predict Their Size and Shape?

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Updated on Feb 09, 2012

Grade Level: 1st - 5th; Type: Earth Science

Objective:

To discover whether we can simulate how craters are formed and thereby predict their size and shape?

Research Questions:

  • What are craters?
  • How are craters formed?
  • What determines the size and shape of a crater?
  • Where are craters found?
  • What kind of research has been conducted on the craters on the moon?
  • What is moon dust made of?

On the information level, this experiment serves to acquaint students with current information on the formation of craters. Craters, especially the very large ones have always intrigued us and the study of the formation of these craters has fascinated our students. Students learn of the formation of craters by the impact of meteors sending tremendous shock waves through the area. This is the gateway to studying the earth`s formation and structure as well as exploring geological disturbances such as volcanoes, cinder cones, lava domes and earthquakes. This also serves to interest students in astronomy as they investigate our data on craters on the moon and other planets.

This science fair experiment also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of sciencing such as the importance of the use of a control, of identifying dependent and independent variables, of data collection, of pictorial and or graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings. They take on the role of scientists and in the process they learn to act as one.

Materials:

  • a large shallow aluminum pan or a large kitty litter pan
  • colored sand or just beach sand colored with cinnamon
  • a large rock
  • a golf ball and a rubber ball
  • a metric ruler
  • a pair of tongs
  • paper towels
  • plastic gloves
  • apron
  • safety glasses
  • a ladder with Mom or Dad to hold it steady.

Charting and or Graphing Data

In each section of the experiment, use charts to display the obtained data such the following sample:

HL= high on ladder

ML=middle of ladder

LL= low on ladder

Chart of Observations
Dimensions HL

Object A

ML

LL HL Object B

ML

LL HL Object C

ML

LL
Width of Crater
Depth of Crater
No. of Ejecta Rays

Experimental Procedure

  1. State the problem you are going to investigate in this science fair project.
  2. Create and reproduce the data sheet you will use to record your observations.
  3. Gather all your materials.
  4. Put on your safety glasses, plastic gloves and apron.
  5. Fill the aluminum pan with sand. Color the sand with cinnamon of coco powder and smooth the surface. Wet the sand.
  6. Select the stones, the rocks, the balls you plan to use. Start at lowest level of the ladder and drop them into the sand. Remove each one carefully and sketch what you are observing. Do not forget to look at the ejecta rays. Add them to your sketch. You may want to take photos of each of your observations. The photos can then be used in both your report and in your display. Smooth out the wet sand.
  7. Now move to the middle of the ladder and using the same objects from step 6 drop them again. Repeat by recording and drawing your observations. Again observe and count the ejecta rays. Remove specimens and smooth the sand.
  8. Now move to the top of the ladder and repeat step 6 again and record your observations. More photos? Why not!
  9. Record all your data in the chart of observations.
  10. Analyze the data and formulate your conclusion.
  11. Prepare your report and include all of the following: a clear statement of the problem, your hypothesis, namely what did you predict would occur and a list of the materials used. Include any safety precautions taken. Describe the procedures used. Include all the data that were gathered. Include all charts. Substantiate your conclusions. For dramatic value, you may include photos as well as the drawings or sketches you made. Include a bibliography of sources you used. You may wish to assess what you did and describe what you would do differently if you were to do this project again. You may wish to expand this research next year.

Terms/Concepts:

Terms:

  • crater
  • meteors
  • meteorite craters
  • meteor showers
  • fireballs
  • friction
  • meteoroid swarms
  • ejecta rays

Concepts:

  • What is a control? A control is the variable that is not changed in the experiment.
  • What purpose does a control serve? It is used to make comparisons as to what changed or possibly caused the change.
  • What are variables? Variables are factors that can be changed in an experiment.
  • What is an independent variable? The independent variable is the one that is changed in the experiment.
  • What is a dependent variable? The dependent variable is the one that changes as a result of the change in the independent variable.

References:

Charles A. Wood, (2006) "Looking Between Craters," Sky & Telescope, March.

Dr. Muriel Gerhard (Ed.D.) is a retired educator with fifty seven years of experience in all aspects of public education. She has been a teacher, principal, administrator, college professor, researcher, grants writer, change agent and science editor. She is the author of several books on education used as college texts. These include the best selling Effective Teaching Strategies with the Behavioral Outcomes Approach and The Behavioral Outcomes Handbook for Teachers and Administrators. Presently she is a consultant in science education and curriculum development, a marriage and family therapist, a newspaper columnist and an author. Her latest book, recently published, is a memoir of sixty vignettes entitled Ć¢Now That I`m Dead, I Decided to Write this Book."

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