NASA 4-H Virtual Science Sessions

phases of the moon

The NASA Space Grant 4-H Virtual Science Sessions project offers a unique set of packaged lending resources to support teachers as they explore earth and space science with their youth! These supplemental resources are free of charge and include the following:

5 exciting NASA lesson plans for activities that highlight resources from the NASA Science Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operation Mission Directorate that were selected to best align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Nebraska Science Standards for middle school. The middle school science curriculum in Nebraska has a particularly strong focus on guiding students to understanding space and earth systems.

Each lesson features a video of a 4-H Youth Development professional facilitator walking youth through activities highlighted on the lesson plans. Worksheets and demonstration aides along with simple materials for the learning and practice of science concepts for youth are also included.

4-H emblem NASA Partner

Lesson Details

Lesson 1: Aquifers

In this lesson, youth will learn what aquifers look like as well as some of the politics surrounding water use.

Grade Level: 5-8

Standards Addressed:

  • NGSS - MS-ESS3-1. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distribution of Earth's mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past current geoscience processes.
  • Nebraska State Standards for Science - SC.7.12.5.B Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distribution of Earth's mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes. 

Supplies Needed:

  • Brainstorm and Water Conservation Worksheet (1 per student)
  • Politics of Water article (1 per student)
  • Clear plastic cups (1 per student)
  • Sand (1/4 cup per youth)
  • Gravel/aquiarium rock (1/4 cup per youth)
  • Water (1/2 cup per youth)
  • Soap pump (optional)
Lesson 2: Erosion & Weathering

In this lesson, youth will learn about erosion as well as solving the Mystery of the Carved Canyon.

Grade Level: 5-8

Standards Addressed:

  • NGSS - MS-ESS2-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.
  • Nebraska State Standards for Science - SC.7.14.6.A Construct ane explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.

Supplies Needed:

  • Carved Canyons Casebook (1 per student)
  • Chimney Rock PDF (1 per student)
  • Foil pan (1 per group)
  • Sand (1 cup full per group)
  • Rocks (1 handful per group)
  • Ice cubes (2-3 per group)
  • Container of clean water (1 per group)
  • Paper cups (2 per group)
Lesson 3: Engineering Design Challenge

In this lesson, youth will design a tower that can withstand a simulated hurricane using a budget and the Engineering Design Process.

Grade Level: 5-8

Standards Addressed:

  • NGSS - MS-ETS 1-2 – Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • NGSS - MS-ETS1-3 – Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • Nebraska State Standards for Science - SC.5.13.4.E Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Supplies Needed:

  • Engineering Design Process Sheet
  • Budget Worksheet
  • Index cards
  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Rubber bands
  • Foam cups
  • Rubber cement
  • Scissors
  • Straws
  • Craft sticks
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Tape
  • String
  • Fan
  • Tennis ball
  • Worksheet
  • Spray bottle for rain simulation (optional)
Lesson 4: Exploration of the Seasons

In this lesson, youth will learn how seasons are created and create graphical displays to reveal patterns of temperatures in various cities around the world.

Grade Level: 5-8

Standards Addressed:

  • NGSS - 5-ESS1-2 – Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.
  • Nebraska State Standards for Science - SC.5.11.3.C Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in the length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.
  • Nebraska State Standards for Science - SC.8.11.6.A Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.

Supplies Needed:

  • Graph Template (1 per student or group)
  • Brainstorm worksheet (1 per student or group)
  • Earth, Sun, and moon plastic model (1 for demonstration)
  • Tech Devices (optional) or Cities Around the World Factsheets
Lesson 5: Lunar Phases

In this lesson, youth will learn phases of the moon.

Grade Level: 5-8

Standards Addressed:

  • NGSS - MS-ESS1-1. Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.
  • Nebraska State Standards for Science - SC. 8.11.6.A Develop a Model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.

Supplies Needed:

  • Moon Brainstorm Sheet (1 per student)
  • White Styrofoam ball - 3 inches or larger (1 for demo)
  • Light source (1 lamp without a lamp shade for demo)
  • Moon Observation Sheet (1 per student)
  • Metal Paper Fastener (1 per student)
  • Paper plates (2 per student)
  • Pencils (1 per student)
  • Scissors (1 per student)
  • Colored Pencils or Crayons (optional)

PLUS Teachers in Douglas and Sarpy counties have access to classroom kits! Each kit serves 15 youth and is filled with supplies needed for each activity. Kits are available for checkout from the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office. For more information contact Tiffany Sessions at tiffany.sessions@unl.edu or 402-444-7869.

Register for Full Access

To access the full collection of resources, register for free! 

Register Now

Sneak Peek

Take a look at the Erosion and Weathering lesson plan, worksheet, and video below.

For questions about this program or the information on this page, please contact: