Alien Oceans

Alien Oceans

Students watch a video of Bethany Ehlmann explaining her investigations into the geologic and environmental aspects of Earth and other planets in our solar system. Students generate questions based on their observations of photographs of planets and then select one question to plan an investigation around.


5 - 12+


Earth Science, Astronomy, Geology

Made Possible By
Lockheed Martin

Idea for Use in the Classroom

As a planetary scientist, Bethany Ehlmann makes observations about asteroids and dwarf planets that lead her to questions she can study. Often these questions compare what she observes to what she knows about how things work on Earth in order to see how asteroids are similar to or different from Earth. Facilitate a class discussion about what drives Bethany’s current research. Ask students, How does Bethany Ehlmann come up with the questions she wants to know more about? (possible answer: from her research and observations).

Have students work in small groups. After watching the video, use the photographs from The Planets to provide each group with a picture of Earth and one other planet. In their groups, have students use the photographs and additional research to compare and contrast the two planets in order to generate a list of their observations and questions.

After students come up with their questions, have them pick one question and develop a plan to investigate by running tests in a lab similar to Bethany Ehlmann. Support students as they identify a testable question and providing feedback as they design their investigation. Have groups share their questions and plans with the whole class and discuss both common and unique ideas across groups.

To conclude, have students reflect on what led them to their question (their observations) and how observing, asking questions, and planning investigations can be used in their daily life.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Heather J. Johnson, Vanderbilt University
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Educator Reviewer
Alexandra M. Silva, Science Educator, Peter Gruber International Academy, Virgin Islands 9-12 International Baccalaureate MYP Science, DP Biology, and DP Environmental Systems & Societies MEd Instructional Leadership: Science Education; MS Ecology & Evolution
Program Specialist
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

July 11, 2023

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