Lunar and Planetary Institute






Polaris

Activity: Space Rocks! A Meteorite Game


Play!
This board game reinforces children’s understanding of the origins of meteors, meteoroids, and meteorites, as well as their characteristics and importance, while tackling some common misconceptions about these space rocks! 

The Activity
Players begin on Track 1 — “The Meteoroid Zone,” above Earth’s atmosphere. They progress to Track 2 — “The Meteor Zone,” where particles enter Earth’s atmosphere and create brilliant streaks of light (meteors) as they race toward Earth’s surface. Most burn up completely. On Track 3 — “The Meteorite Zone,” those rocks from space that passed through Earth’s atmosphere without being vaporized may be found as meteorites.

The children’s mission is to have their meteoroid pass through Earth’s atmosphere and reach Earth as a meteorite, where it can be found and tell its story to scientists.

Have the children get into small groups, and choose one of their group to be the “Cosmic Questioner.” This person verifies responses to the board questions.

Each player, other than the Cosmic Questioner, will begin as a “Meteoroid” in the “Start” square and will roll the die and move their gamepiece the appropriate number of spaces. They are to follow the directions on the initial square on which they land.

“Query squares” have questions for the players to answer. When a player answers correctly, as verified by the Cosmic Questioner, he or she may advance to the next square and await their next turn to roll the die. If a player answers incorrectly, he or she must remain on that square until their next turn and then try again to answer that same question correctly. Once they have answered correctly, they may advance to the next square and await their next turn.

As players complete a track, they move to the next track. To win, the player must roll — in turn — until they land on the last square in “Antarctica,” where they may be discovered and studied by a team of scientists, and perhaps reveal clues to the mysteries of our origins!

Answer Key

Meteoroid Zone —

A meteoroid can be a piece of what?
a. the Moon or Mars   b. an asteroid   c. a comet   d. all of the above

Are meteoroids really “shooting stars”?
No. Meteoroids do not have trails of light because they are not moving through Earth’s atmosphere. Meteors, not meteoroids, are called shooting stars, but they are not really stars at all, either.

What is a meteoroid?
a. a rock from space found on Earth   b. a small minor planet   c. a tiny particle, often no bigger than a grain of sand, orbiting around the Sun

What does a meteoroid sometimes become?
a. a black hole   b. a meteor   c. a small planet
Meteoroids are smaller than objects scientists would call small planets. When a meteroid moves through Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a brilliant streak of light — a meteor.

Often meteoroids are what?
a. the size of planets   b. not much larger than a grain of sand   c. solid gold

A meteoroid can be made of what?
a. metal (typically iron and nickel)   b. rock   c. metal and rock   d. all of the above

Where do meteoroids NOT occur?
a. throughout our solar system   b. in the asteroid belt   c. on Earth
Meteoroids are “rocks in space.” When a meteoroid lands on Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Meteor Zone —

What causes an “annual” meteor shower?
a. Earth passing through the debris of a particular comet in its orbit   b. favorable weather conditions   c. the birthdays of certain astronomers

What are meteors incorrectly called?
a. falling stars   b. shooting stars   c. fireballs   d. all of the above
Meteors are created by particles falling through our atmosphere — they have nothing to do with stars or fire!

Meteors are often seen as what?
a. particles in space   b. streaks of light   c. stars
Meteors are the streaks of light we see in the night sky. They are caused by particles moving through our atmosphere so fast that they compress the air in front of them and the air heats up and glows.

What are the names of two famous meteor showers that occur annually?
a. the Alphas and the Omegas   b. the Leonids and the Perseids   c. the Hatfields and the McCoys
When Earth’s orbit intersects a comet’s orbit, the particles in the comet’s trail enter Earth’s atmosphere and create meteor showers! The Perseid meteor shower peaks in August and radiates from the constellation of Perseus. It comes from particles in the trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. The Leonid meteor shower peaks in November and appears to come from the direction of the constellation Leo.

How many meteors might you see in a meteor shower in an hour?
a. 1 to 2   b. 1,000,000   c. between 10 and a few hundred
Comet trails are dusty places!

Space Rocks Game Board


More Activities

 

Last updated
January 9, 2007

 

Who?
Ages 9–14

How Long?
30 minutes or longer

What's Needed?
For each group of 4 or 5 children:

A copy of the game board
One die
• One copy of the answers (to be seen only by the “Cosmic Questioner” of the group)

For each child:

• One small pebble or rock or bean. Small black pebbles may be purchased in most pet supplies departments. The black color represents the meteorite’s fusion crust.

Invite each player to draw a symbol on his/her meteorite.

Connections to the National Science Education Standard(s)

Standards D&F (grades 5–8):
The Earth is located in a system that includes planets, moons, and smaller objects. External processes of the Earth system cause natural hazards such asteroid (and meteorite) impacts
.