Vernier Science Education - June  2024


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New Teachers

When a student mentions Pluto?

Author Post
Edgar Mondragon Edgar MONDRAGON 865 Points

If I am teaching a lesson on space and one of my students mentions that Pluto is one of the planets. How do I go about in explaining that it is no longer considered a planet?

Navil Lopez Navil Lopez 810 Points

Great question! That is something I would love to know how to explain as well.

Nicholas Morrow Nicholas Morrow 825 Points

Pull up a video up of Neil DeGrasse Tyson (who had a hand in demoting Pluto from its planetary status) explaining his reasoning.

I recommend that you first explain students that science is not absolute and that it can change when new information is acquired. I also recommend that you first talk about the criteria for planets, stars, etc. Once student learn about the criteria, you can explain or set up a discovery lesson where they can investigate whether or not Pluto meets the criteria for a planet. 

Antonia Adams Antonia Adams 845 Points

I would first address how science is not absolute and that things can change with new research. I'd be sure to discuss that at one point, Pluto was a planet. I would then tie in the new knowledge about the criteria of a planet and discuss how Pluto does not satisfy the criteria. 

Lauren Gray Lauren Gray 590 Points

This is such an important consideration! The thinking that science changes based on new discoveries can also lend itself into the classroom. We can teach our students that it is OK to change your thinking in consideration with an explanation based on new evidence; that is what scientists always do to refine theories based on new evidence.

Allison Estal Allison Estal 1015 Points

This is a great answer! Scientists must be open to discovering new ideas! 

Emily Torres Emily Torres 595 Points

I loved how you mentioned this topic because a lot of students will ask about Pluto. Sometimes students don't have the correct information to know why Pluto isn't considered a Planet. I feel its important as science educators that we stress the importance that science content is always changing do to new findings. Telling the student back when Pluto was considered a planet scientist didn't have the same resources as they do know to have a criteria to consider a planet. Its important that teachers teach accurate information. 

Saif Sattani Saif Sattani 1720 Points

I completely agree. 

Wendy Nativi Wendy Nativi 775 Points

Brianna Gage Brianna Gage 600 Points

I recently just came across a very similar situation. However, the student said that he was told that Pluto no longer existed. I'm not sure where he heard it from, but I really liked the suggestions you guys offered. I will make sure to take that into consideration if I am every asked that question again. Thank you. 

Monica Pelayo Monica Pelayo 305 Points

Pluto is actually a dwarf planet! So I'd completely acknowledge their reasoning and tell them that it is a planet but its a special type of planet. We don't consider it one of the main planets because there are other dwarf planets. Here's an article that explains a little more! 

Jonathan Marin Jonathan Marin 435 Points

A long time ago, Ceres was considered a planet. It was the planet between Mars and Jupiter. After we discovered that it was simply part of the asteroid belt, and many other huge asteroids were discovered in it, it simply got demoted to dwarf planet. Same thing happened to Pluto. Pluto is part of the Kuiper belt. In this section of our solar system, we have discovered celestial bodies bigger than pluto. Instead of just adding more useless planets to the list, Pluto gets demoted. Pluto is still very important: its title is not a reflection of its worth. 

Nicolette Dunn Nicolette Dunn 2995 Points

I didn't know that about Ceres. Thanks for sharing! I have studied a lot of areas of science but astronomy has not been one of them. I am a pre-service teacher. Do you have any recommendations on any good resources to help get me up to speed? Thanks.

Fawn Cooper Fawn 1310 Points

This would make a great research topic for a class learning about our solar system!

Victoria Pomeroy Victoria Pomeroy 3600 Points

I am still going to school to be a teacher, but I was interested in this. I thought that Pluto was being petitioned to become a planet again. I know the school district near me only gives 15 minutes per day for Science and Social Studies, for the K-5 grades. Is it even worth bringing up when you don't have the time to explain the situation fully?

Jorge Armenta Jorge Armenta 780 Points

I certainly don't think you should focus much time on it. You can verbally explain to your students how back in your day when you were their age Pluto was considered a planet but since science is always evolving then it is no longer considered much more than a dwarf planet because it is significantly smaller than the rest.

Adrienne Ceballos Adrienne Ceballos 885 Points

I think it is a good opportunity to use Pluto's change from a planet to a dwarf planet as a way to teach the students about how the information we have in science is always changing. We can show them how science is not always right because it changes based on the data and evidence that we gather in an investigation.

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