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Electromagnetic Fields
From "Theramin: An Electronic Odyssey"

Subject:     JAF ENTER

Ages:         5 - 18

Length:      Snippet: 13 minutes; Lesson: JAF ENTER.

Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will be exposed to the magnitude and wonder of space exploration, learn about the powers of 10, and learn about microorganisms responsible for life on Earth.

Rationale:     Knowledge, basic and advanced, of our solar system, universe and galaxy, is required by most, if not all, states.

Description of the Snippet:     This snippet is a short film that starts in Venice, Italy, explaining the concept of the powers of 10, then moving exponentially outwards until we are in space. After learning about outer space, we are pulled back into Earth, and beyond, moving closer and closer until we are in cells, learning about atoms and quarks.

Using the Snippet in Class    

Step by Step

1.  Tell students that this class will be about space. For students in the lower grades, see if they can name the planets in our solar system. For older students, see if they can define terms like galaxy, universe, black hole, etc.

2.  Start playing the film from the beginning, running it until the end of the movie. Present the information in the Supplemental Materials section below in a lecture, class discussion, or take home assignment. The Supplemental Materials section describes important advancements since "Cosmic Voyage" was made. See the Concluding Activity/Assessment for projects and questions to follow up with after the lesson is over.
Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Description of the Snippet
Using the Snippet in Class:
      Step by Step
      Supplemental Materials

Location:     Before the lesson cue the movie to 1 minute 15 seconds into the film; the title of the movie will be showing on the screen. Play the movie for the next 13 minutes, stopping the film at the end of Ms. Rocka's 18th birthday party after the showing of the electronic birthday cake. Possible Problems for this Snippet:     None.

Building Vocabulary: planet, big bang, quark, atom, universe, solar system, particle accelerator. ADD MORE?

Supplemental Materials:


Between the time when "Cosmic Voyage" was created (1996) and the present, there have been a number of changes in the way we understand, interact with, and define space, our universe, and even our own solar system.

In 2003, NASA launched two rovers with the intent of exploring Mars. In 2004, the rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars, ready to work and to report findings back to Earth. Despite the occasional technical glitch and dust storm, the rovers have been helping us learn more about our neighboring planet. This knowledge includes the discovery of the presence of a history of water, allowing many to wonder if we ever could inhabit the red planet. Amazingly, the rovers are still functioning to this day, more than five years beyond their original mission date.

Pluto is another "planet" that has been, well, redefined since the production of "Cosmic Voyage". It's been so redefined that it's not even considered a planet anymore! In 2005, astronomers made an important discovery: that beyond Pluto's orbit, a new solar system body existed. This body, eventually named Eris, was found to also have its own moon, named Dysnomia. Astronomers were faced with a difficult problem: if a planet existed beyond Pluto that was larger and more distant than Pluto, should it be included in our own solar system? Should it trump Pluto's inclusion? And just what did the term "planet" mean anyway?

And so, in 2006, after much debate, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) reclassified the planets in our solar system. The revised definition "added a specific scientific requirement for planethood: it must have cleared all other significantly sized bodies out of its orbital path or neighborhood..." It also defined a new category - "dwarf planets". Both Pluto and its usurper, Eris, are considered dwarf planets. As for us, our solar system is now officially recognized as having eight planets.

Other planets, too, have also been in the spotlight. Though previous probes have been sent around the planet Mercury, in 2004, NASA launched a probe, Messenger, with the intent of sending it into the orbit of Mercury, which should be achieved in around 2011. During a flyby, Messenger managed to snap photos of a side of Mercury that has never before been seen. Venus has been currently explored by the European Space Agency using its own elliptical orbiting explorer probes.

Harnessing the technological and far reaching power of the internet, SETI@home has allowed regular people to participate in the search for extraterrestrial life. Launched in 1999, SETI is utilizing the masses to analyze "narrow-bandwidth radio signals" picked up from space. Not occurring naturally, the presence of such signals could suggest other-worldly life forms.

Just like our technological capabilities and scientific understandings, space is an ever-changing frontier. We may never know all the answers to all of our questions, but the pursuit of knowledge, answered or not, is just as noble now as it was when the first human looked up at the sky and wondered.


Reminder: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing this snippet.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

This film is available from

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Concluding Activity/Assessment:     

  • Have students answer this question in a report or homework assignment. You can cover the concept of aligning orbits in class. Why were the Mars rovers launched in June and July? Why must they wait for a specific time to be sent back to Earth? What would happen if they were launched at a random date?

  • Other information: Teachers and parents can access materials put together about the Mars rovers on NASA's website, Mars for Educators, which has useful guides, videos and information. A brief question and answer list about the rovers can be found at
  • Research the history of our solar system, and whether or not other planets have been demoted or promoted. What have been previous definitions/criteria for being called a "planet"? How far back do they go? Compare these to today's definition set by the IAU.
  • Download the SETI@home program onto a class computer, or have students download it at home. Find any extraterrestrial life? Talk about radio signals, and how and why they can travel through space. How does their speed compare to light? How do they compare to the many other waves and rays?

  • Research what the people of Earth have put out into space about us, for other life forms to discover. Learn about the "Golden Records" sent aboard NASA spacecrafts, should another life form find them. What would you put on a Golden Record about your life? Answer this question with a record design, a cover sleeve design, and a transcript of the recordings on your record.

Bibliography: In addition to the websites mentioned in this Guide, the following book was consulted: The Handy Astronomy Answer Book by Charles Liu. Canton, MI: Visible Ink, 2008.

This Snippet Lesson Plan written by James Frieden and Lauren Humphrey. It was last revised on August 14, 2009.

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