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TeachNet Grant: Life and Death of a Star Videocasts

Brent Sackris

George Westinghouse High School
105 Tech Pl
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Grade/Subject: High School: Earth Science & Technology

About the Grant:
Materials: iMacs or macbooks w/iMovie & Photobooth
Modeling Supplies (Styrofoam modeling balls, clay, paint, fishing twine, thumb tacks, empty box, glitter, cotton)
Recommended Readings from Website list below

About: Students spend several weeks learning about the life and death of a star.  Students are then asked to make a model of this process, and then create a video podcast that will provide students with the opportunity to explain what they've learned in greater detail as well as incorporate digital diagrams and animations to help them explain this process.

  • Students will be able to explain the life cycle of a star
  • Students will be able to explain and identify key terms associated with star life and death, such as nebula, protostar, fusion/ignition, main sequence , super giant, red giant, white dwarf, black hole
  • Students will create a three-dimensional model of star life cycle
  • Students will research and write a script explaining highlights from star life cycle
  • Students will create a video podcast, gathering real-world images/animations to help explicate the narrative of their star life cycle script
Websites Used
  1. http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/labs/star_life/starlife_main.html Offers an overview of a star's life and death
  2. http://burro.astr.cwru.edu/stu/stars_lifedeath.html Offers an overview of a star's life and death at an accelerated reading level
  3. http://thehistorychannel.co.uk/site/tv_guide/full_details/World_history/programme_204.php information on a recent HISTORY channel production about the life and death of star
  4. Gateway to Science, ISBN: 1424016215 / 9781424016211 Great textbook for low-level readers to explain life/death star process
  5. Quizstar.4Teachers.Org great website that teachers can use to create online quizzes.  Even allows teachers to upload graphics for the quizzes.  Includes 60 day free trial, $35 annual fee after trial period
  6. http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/rel_stars.html NASA's official website about star life & death
  7. http://spitzer.caltech.edu/features/hd/index.shtml Resource of High definition video podcasts of the 'things that go bump' in outer-space from NASA's Spitzer telescope.
Standards Addressed:

National Science Standards Met  for grades 9-12
Earth and Space Science Standards -- Origin and Evolution of the Universe
As a result of their activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Energy in the earth system
  • Geochemical cycles
  • Origin and evolution of the earth system
  • Origin and evolution of the universe

National Education Technology Standards for NETS.S For Teachers

1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
2. Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
3. Model Digital Age Work and Learning

Lesson 1:


Objective: Students will learn key phases of a star's life cycle

Materials: Recommended readings and/or videos per the teacher


  1. Teacher will introduce topic with material is appropriate for his/her students.
  2. The website, http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/labs/star_life/starlife_main.html, has a great diagram comparing a star's life cycle to that of a human's.  The teacher could use this analogy to enhance student learning and ask students to think of other analogies for the life/death of a star.

Homework: Further reading about life/death of star.

Assessment: Students should complete a quiz of the basic understandings and key words of life cycle of star which could be given as an in-class assignment, or as an online quiz using Quizstar.

Lesson 2:

Model Building

Objective: Students create physical model of the life cycle of a star.

Materials: model-building supplies (wire, foam, paint, etc)


Students are given the modeling supplies to create a model of a star's life cycle. An example is shown below:

Homework: Ask students to begin collecting real-world images of the things that they modeled, being sure to keep track of where they are finding the images so that they can cite them later.

Assessment: Teacher can create a rubric to grade students on their ability to successfully model a star's life cycle. 

Lesson 3:

Video Podcast Viewing


  1. Students learn how to download video podcasts for viewing from NASAs website
  2. Students identify characteristics of a successful video podcast

Materials: Computers, Web browser, Internet Access, http://spitzer.caltech.edu/features/hd/index.shtml


  1. Teacher demonstrates how to access the NASA HD website.  (Note, iTunes can also be used to access these video casts).
  2. Teacher assigns students to small groups and asks them to view various videocasts from the website.  Teacher asks students  as a group, to keep track of the commonalities between each video.
  3. Teacher allows each group to report their findings to facilitate class discussion.
  4. Teacher points out common characteristics such as length (generally less than 7 minutes), importance of selected images to enhance information transfer, language used, etc (as a differentiated activity, students can actually download full transcripts of each episode and groups could be tasked to compare the language used between episodes)

Teacher asks the students to choose a video podcast that most interests them and to download the written transcript of the video podcast.  Teacher asks the students to identify what they think the key words and ideas are from each video podcast transcript (if a class website exists, students could complete this homework assignment in a blog format -- or email to teacher so that he/she could filter comments and post)

The homework would serve as an assessment piece.  Teacher could also assign the class to watch 1-2 specific video podcasts and then give quiz on subject matter.

Lesson 4

Drafting Video Podcast Script

Objective: Students will research using text and school library resources (if available) to draft script of their video podcast for the life/death of a star.

Materials: Selected readings, school library, internet access

Procedures: Teacher guides student research through draft writing process.

Students should create story board for where they will insert their real-world images into their videocast.

Teacher collects drafts at end of class time.  Checks for use of key words and make sure script fits video podcast style.

Lesson 5:

Video Podcast Creation

Objective: Students will create their video podcast based on their script

Materials: Imacs/Macbooks, iMovie & Photobooth


  1. Teacher should allow students access to labs that have iMacs/Macbooks so that they can create their video podcast using the video record feature of Photobooth (which will allow them to 'blue-screen' their real world images).
  2. If necessary, teacher should instruct students on how to use the software.
  3. After finishing their raw takes, the teacher should allow the students to edit their videos using iMovie.

Teacher should tell students to create a works cited page for the resources they used and finish editing their production if they haven't already.

Teacher can use the submitted video podcast as a final assessment on the topic.  The video podcast can also be used to assess students' digital savvy.

Brent Sackris holds a master’s of social sciences degree in psychology from The University of Chicago and a master’s of science degree in Special Education from Long Island University. He has collaborated in the past with the following museums to create education outreach opportunities The Museum of Science and Industry, Scitech Hands On Museum, American Museum of Natural History and The Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art. He is a recipient of the following grants which helped to fund innovative learning experiences: Motorola Innovation Generation Grant, UFT MiniGrant, and Donor's Choose.


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