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Students Learn About Space Through Demonstrations

Kristin Suer led her seventh-grade earth science class in hands-on demonstrations of objects found in space. In the first demonstration, students recreated the death of a red supergiant star. “Students blew up a balloon to represent the star and covered it in layers of foil to represent the growing layers of burning gas that embody a star. Thermonuclear fusion exerts a pressure that keeps it from collapsing,” Suer said. “Then they popped the balloon with a pin and crumpled up the foil in a ball, representing the fuel that runs out in the core. The diminishing size and increasing density of the foil simulates the formation of a black hole.” In the second demonstration, students created a black hole. They used a piece of stretchy black fabric to represent two-dimensional space. They then used a heavy ball to represent the black hole, which deforms and curves the fabric of space. “When a star, represented by a marble, passed by the black hole, students witnessed it orbiting around the black hole and eventually falling into it (due to its strong gravitational pull). This helped students visualize the behavior of stars around black holes and what scientists observe through telescopes.”