1. Tell children that their job is to design a planet that can support life. To become familiar with five factors a planet needs to support life, they will begin by playing a game.
Jumping in without much discussion may feel like an abrupt way to begin. Yet, the game introduces children to the vocabulary and concepts they need to have a fruitful discussion, which takes place after the game. At this stage, concentrate on launching the game.
2. Introduce the game.
- So everyone understands how the game works, show how to set the board up properly. Then, take a few turns (yourself) to demonstrate the play.
- Create teams of two (or three, if necessary) and give each team the game materials.
- Challenge teams to build as many habitable planets as they can in 15 minutes.
A team of two is ideal because the game moves at a more satisfying pace and each child has a better chance to consider each factor. When teams are three or larger, children can become distracted while waiting for their turns.
3. After 15 minutes, bring everyone together. Discuss the following questions:
- What are the five factors considered necessary for a planet to support life?
- Why is each of these factors important?
- Which factors are essential for life that lives on a planet's surface? For life that lives far beneath the surface?
- Which factor might you be able to eliminate and still have a habitable planet?
All five factors are essential for life on a planet's surface. However, sub-surface life does not necessarily need an atmosphere to retain heat, provide nutrients, or absorb harmful ultraviolet light. Internal heat can maintain temperatures at levels suitable for life. The atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide that many of Earth's surface organisms use to grow are also available beneath the surface. Finally, a planet's crust can shield the sub-surface from harmful radiation from the sun, such as ultraviolet light.