Hands-On Activity: Will a Meteorite Land Near Me?

See other posts in this series:

FAQs About Friday’s Fireball

Meteor Strike and Asteroid Fly-By

As you probably heard over the weekend, a large meteor entered the atmosphere and exploded over Russia last Friday morning. This hands-on activity will help your students grasp the likelihood that a meteorite will land at any given place on Earth—and perhaps ease their minds as well! (A student-facing version of this activity, with blue teacher notes and answers removed, is available as a downloadable PDF.)

Hands-On Activity: Will a Meteorite Land Near Me?

Inquiry Focus: Analyzing Data

Group Size: Pairs

Class Time: 30 minutes

Materials: globe that can rotate on its axis

Most globes spin on an axis supported by a curved metal meridian bracket running from the North Pole to the South Pole. Caution students not to get their fingers stuck between the globe and this metal meridian.


In this activity, one person will take the role of the “meteorite” and the partner will spin the globe. Halfway through the activity, you will swap positions.

1. Place the globe on a desk. If your globe has a metal support meridian running from north to south, make sure the meridian is on the side of the globe opposite the person acting as the meteorite.

2. The person acting as the meteorite should sit in front of the desk, within easy reach of the globe (about ½ meter away). Extend your index finger and move it to within a few centimeters of the globe. Close your eyes and wait for your partner’s instruction.

3. The partner should now gently spin the globe. [CAUTION: Spinning the globe too fast can cause injury.] Your target speed should be about one rotation per second. Once the globe is spinning, tell your partner, “Now.”

4. Keeping your eyes closed and upon hearing your partner say “Now,” the person acting as the meteorite should firmly place an index finger on the globe’s surface. This will cause the globe to stop spinning. [NOTE: Be sure to vary your approach angle to the globe. Come toward the globe from the top and bottom (the poles) as well as from the side. If you find it hard to stop the globe with one finger, use all your fingers to stop the globe but use the index finger as the marker.]

5. Once the globe stops spinning, leave your finger in place, open your eyes, and note the position of your finger. Assign this position to the appropriate column in a data table like the one shown below.

6. Repeat Steps 2­­–5 nine more times.

7. After ten trials, switch roles with your partner and repeat the activity.

8. Add the number of times your finger (the “meteorite”) landed in the four different location types in the data table. Determine the percentage of landings in each location. The percentage for each location is calculated by adding the number of landings (use the Totals row), dividing by the number of trials (should be 20), and multiplying the result by 100%.

  • Ocean: _______________
  • Continent: _______________
  • Island: _______________
  • My Hometown: _______________


1. Based on your results, what type of location is most likely to experience a meteorite landing?

Ocean locations should receive the most landings, followed by continents, and islands. It’s very unlikely that anyone will hit his or her hometown.

2. Why do you think the location in Question 1 received the most landings?

Sample Answer: Oceans make up the largest percentage of Earth’s surface, so it is more likely that meteorites would land in an ocean.

3. Do you think you would be more likely to witness a meteorite landing if you lived on a sailboat on the Pacific Ocean instead of living on land? Explain your reasoning.

Sample Answer: No. While it might seem that you would be more likely to witness a meteorite landing if you lived on the ocean, the fact is it doesn’t matter where you live. Assuming that meteorites can approach Earth from any direction, the chances that you would witness a meteorite are the same, no matter where you live.


How many natural objects fall to Earth each day? A quick look at the moon’s surface, especially the far side of the moon, provides proof—in the form of craters—that a very large number of meteorites have hit the moon’s surface. Since Earth’s surface is much larger than the moon’s surface, it’s reasonable to assume that even more meteorites have hit Earth. Why does Earth’s surface seem to have far fewer impact craters? Research this topic online and learn what protects Earth’s surface from meteor impacts… and how large a meteor or asteroid has to be in order to reach Earth’s surface.

Useful online resources are, National Academy of Sciences, and various university Web sites. For example, has various resources about comets, asteroids, meteors, and meteorite impacts.

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FAQs About Friday’s Fireball

On February 15, a meteor exploded over the sky of western Siberia the same day Asteroid DA14 whizzed past Earth, as described in this other post. Students will likely have tons of questions about this eerie astronomical coincidence. Expect some lively discussions in your science classroom this week! To help you prepare, here are some questions your students might be asking you:

Are the meteor and asteroid events related?

Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists say the answer is definitely no. The timing is purely coincidental; the two events just happened to occur on the same day but have no connection. For one thing, their trajectories were totally different. Videos of the meteor show it streaking from north to south. Asteroid DA14 zipped past Earth the opposite way, from south to north.

Are there other space objects out there we should worry about?

That probably depends on what you mean by “worry.” Astronomers estimate there are up to 1 million Near Earth objects or NEOs — asteroids and comets — zipping around in outer space right now that could potentially spell trouble for Earthlings. Problem is, fewer than 10,000 of these have been spotted and cataloged so far. As of February 17, 1,382 of the NEOs were identified as PHAs, or potentially hazardous asteroids. New ones are added to the list every week. These are the ones sky watchers are most concerned about. Their concern is based on both the size of these space rocks — larger than 150 meters (500 feet) in diameter— and how close they’ll get to Earth — within 7,480,000 kilometers (4,650,000 miles).

NASA scientists say they’re currently tracking more than two dozen asteroids with a better than one-in-a-million chance of slamming into our planet over the next century.

How close did Asteroid DA14 come to hitting Earth?

At its closest pass, Asteroid DA14 was only about 28,000 km (17,200 miles) away from Indonesia. That’s more than 10 times closer than the average Earth-Moon distance (384,000 km or 239,000 miles) and is closer than many communications satellites. Good thing it missed. With a mass estimated at roughly 143,000 tons, it would have triggered a cataclysmic blast, equivalent to 2.4 million tons of TNT. That’s over 180 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in World War II!

How often do space objects enter Earth’s atmosphere?

More often than you might think. Truth be told, our atmosphere gets slammed by about 100 tons of interplanetary debris every single day, according to the head of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program. Most of it is tiny sand-sized or pea-sized bits of rock. But basketball-sized space rocks streak into Earth’s atmosphere daily. Larger ones the size of small cars hit the atmosphere every few months. Lucky for us, nearly all of these burn up from the heat of intense friction. An asteroid the size of DA14 approaches close to Earth every 40 years or so, and enters our atmosphere every 1,200 years, on average.

House-sized NEOs (about 30 m or 100 ft diameter) like the one that exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908 can be expected to penetrate Earth’s atmosphere every few hundred years, on average. Humongous ones, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs and triggered mass extinctions 65 million years ago, only strike every 100 million years or so. Scientists estimate that planet-changing NEO was 10 km (6 miles) in diameter. That’s as wide as Mt. Everest is tall!

How does the size of Asteroid DA14 compare to that of the Siberian meteors of February 15 and 1908?

The asteroid was about 45 meters (150 feet) across, or half the length of a football field. That’s three times bigger than the largest estimate of the Chelyabinsk meteor. No one can say for sure, but scientists estimate that the 1908 Tunguska meteor may have been roughly 100 m (330 ft) in diameter. Shock waves from its explosion destroyed an area of forest about 2/3 the size of Rhode Island.

Asteroid DA14 is smaller than many of the other asteroids astronomers are tracking. Asteroid 3752 Camillo, which flew by Earth just a few days earlier, on February 12, was 3.4 km (2 miles) wide. It didn’t make the news because it was too far away from Earth for anyone to really care.

How do meteors trigger shock waves?

The February 15 meteor struck the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk at a speed of about 64,000 km/h (40,000 mph), or way faster than the speed of sound (1,236 km/h or 768 mph). This broke the sound barrier and triggered an ear-splitting sonic boom. Shock waves formed as the compressed sound waves piled up on each other, building up tremendous energy. These shock waves shattered windows in and around Chelyabinsk, causing most of the 1100 injuries attributed to the event.

Did the entire meteor burn up in the atmosphere?

No. Meteor fragments that don’t burn from friction in the atmosphere and make it to the ground are called meteorites. Local news reports say meteorites were found in at least seven locations in and around Chelyabinsk in Siberia and across the border in Kazakhstan.

Is there anything we can do to stop NEOs heading towards Earth?

Not quite yet. But scientists are making great progress developing the technology to intercept a threatening NEO with spacecraft. The idea is to produce a head-on collision with the NEO that changes its trajectory and keeps it from hitting Earth. In fact, we’ve already had some practice with this strategy. On July 4, 2005, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft shot out a probe that crash-landed on comet Tempel 1. The collision kicked up a huge cloud of debris that helped scientists learn more about the comet’s composition. But NASA says it will take years (and money) to design and build a reliable NEO-intercept system. And of course, we have to be able to see the NEO coming.

Where can I find out more about NEOs?

NASA’s Near Earth Object Program is a terrific place to start.

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Meteor Strike and Asteroid Fly-By

Fire Over Ice

On February 15, 9:20 AM local time, a flash of light filled the sky over the Chelyabinsk region of western Siberia, Russia. People looked out their windows and saw a fiery yellow object streaking across the sky from north to south. The object seemed to be breaking apart or exploding, leaving a smoky contrail in its wake. Seconds later, people below the fireball heard sonic booms, like those emitted by jet planes that break the sound barrier. In and around the city of Chelyabinsk, about 900 miles from Moscow, windows imploded and roofs caved in as shock waves rolled across Earth’s surface. More than 1000 people suffered injuries from flying glass and other debris. Some witnesses thought the world was ending, while others suggested that a new weapon had been tested. What really happened? A large meteor had collided with the atmosphere, turned into a fireball, and shattered into tiny fragments.

When in space, these objects, composed mostly of rock and iron, are called meteoroids. Upon reaching the atmosphere, where the friction with air is great enough to cause them to shatter, they are called meteors. (In the fireball state, they are also called bolides.) Any fragments that reach Earth’s surface are called meteorites. A similar but much larger meteor struck Tunguska, another region of Siberia, in 1908. In that case, over 800 square miles of forest—about 80 million trees—were wiped out by the massive shock waves and the impact of the meteorites. The amount of energy released by that event was 185 times greater than that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

Friday’s meteor wasn’t as destructive, but it was still frightening. The Russian Academy of Scientists preliminary estimates of the Chelyabinsk meteor’s size, speed, and altitude when it exploded: 7,000 tons, 33,000 miles per hour, and 30 miles. (NASA later raised the estimated size to 10,000 tons and the speed to 40,000 miles per hour, and lowered the altitude of explosion to 12-15 miles.) Imagine a massive boulder colliding with the atmosphere at a speed 15 times faster than what our fastest jet planes can achieve. The resulting friction and heat—about 44,000 degrees Fahrenheit—explains the “fireball” appearance of the Chelyabinsk bolide.

A Cosmic Coincidence

For a full year before the Chelyabinsk meteor arrived, astronomers had been tracking a different “near-earth object”—Asteroid 2012 DA14. The DA14 asteroid, which is essentially a larger meteoroid, was due to pass within 18,000 miles of Earth—close, but not dangerously close—on February 15, 2013. Being aware of DA14’s trajectory allowed astronomers to develop accurate models and simulations of its orbit. The video below is based on NASA’s “Eyes on the Solar System” simulator, which you can use to explore this part of the universe.

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So, if the Chelyabinsk meteor struck Earth on the same day as Asteroid 2012 DA14, does that mean they were related, or that they shared the same origin? Scientists have given an emphatic “no.” DA14 and the Chelyabinsk meteor were traveling in very different directions, so there is no connection between the two.

See Jack Hankin’s related post about questions your students are likely to have about Friday’s events, and check out his posts on Planet Diary, too.

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OLE Chats with Jeff Bradbury from TeacherCast

Back in July of 2011, while working as a high school orchestra and music theory teacher in Philadelphia, Jeff Bradbury single-handedly started TeacherCast, a teacher resources website and podcast series. In just over a year, TeacherCast has grown an organic following of over 400,000 people, and it continues to grow.

I recently sat down with Jeff  to ask him about what prompted him to start his own website and podcast series and what continues to drive him to dedicate his life to his students and the educators who support them. In this podcast Jeff shares tips for flipping your classroom, sharing your students’ work with the world, and how to grow your own personal learning network.

5 Easy Ways to Quickly Grow Your Personal Learning Network Webinar

After you listen to the podcast, don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinar on February 21st from 3:00-4:00MST where Jeff will share quick tips to begin collaborating with educators from around the world.

podcastOLE Chats with Jeff Bradbury from TeacherCast

Play OLE Chats Podcast with Teachercast

Podcast Show Notes

3:45 –  What is TeacherCast? Why/How did you start Teachercast?

Dennis Freitas,

4:45 –  Challenges of applying technology to produce effective learning outcomes

6:34 – Finding the right tools for the right job

8:00 – Access to technology outside the home

Kidblog, Remind101

10:00 –  Flipped classroom experiment

11:45 – Share students’ work with the world

Livebinder, Twitter, Google Docs, Kidblog

12:50OLE Authentic Learning Experiences Best Practice: Share Knowledge

14:00 – How do you address concerns around student publishing?

Recommended resources for digital citizenship from Shannon Miller

How to be a good digital citizen presentation

17:20Who is Jeff Bradbury?

19:30 – Advice for others to get involved in their own personal learning networks

22:50 – Who is your favorite teacher and why?

25:30 – What gets you out of bed in the morning or, conversely, keeps you up at night?

28:00 – What do you see as the biggest trends in education technology that have the potential to be truly disruptive and help us to see positive gains in student achievement?

Bammy awards

30:30 – Who are the three people that our audience should be following to help them grow professionally as educators?

1) Jerry Bloomengarden, @cybraryman1

2) #EduCoach: Shira Leibowitz Ph.D. @ShiraLeibowitz, Kathy Perret @KathyPerret, Jessica Johnson @PrincipalJ

3) My wife, @bassjen1

4) #SatChat: Scott Rocco @ScottRRocco, Brad Currie @bcurrie

35:00 – What’s next for TeacherCast?

38:30TeacherCast Career Center

40:00 – Contact Information, @TeacherCast,

About TeacherCast

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TeacherCast is a collection of educational resources under the guidance of Jeff Bradbury. As an orchestra director and teacher from North Brunswick, Jeff created to help the educators of his school district navigate the sea of technology. Jeff facilitates a variety of discussions among educators, administrators, and assorted guests to formulate a path for education in the 21st century.


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Educator Professional Development – New Pinterest Board on OLE

As technology changes, infrastructure shifts, and expectations of teachers rise, it’s important to keep up with the many effective ways to share ideas and knowledge inside and outside of the classroom.

Check out the new board on OLE Community’s Pinterest page, Educator Professional Development. We’ll be pinning informative and useful content regularly to provide resources on professional development for educators in the 21st century.

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Quick Tips: 3 Innovative iPad Uses Plus AppQuest Freebie

Looking for new ways to integrate iPads into your daily work?  Here are some of my favorite ideas that you probably haven’t tried yet.

Get student feedback

Use iPads to distribute a survey in order to assess student perceptions of your classroom.  Your students will appreciate being able to voice their opinions, and it provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on your teaching practices and set goals.  I started doing this a couple years ago and have continued to do so with my students!

Never created an online survey before?  Here’s step by step how to do so with Google Docs , or you might try Survey Monkey, another favorite.

Create an Appquest

EasyLearn DiseasesEver heard of a WebQuest?  Create something similar but using an App or collection of Apps.  My students are currently studying infectious diseases so as an introduction to our unit, I had them complete this AppQuest using EasyLearn’s Diseases app.

easyLearn Diseases iPad App

easyLearn Diseases iPad App

My middle school students loved this activity and it taught them how to use a valuable resource that will come in handy when they do research for an upcoming project.

Free AppQuest Download

Infectious Diseases Appquest Worksheet

Infectious Diseases Appquest Worksheet

Download AppQuest Worksheet

Make school events interactive

This Spring my school is hosting an event to showcase the amazing projects going on in our school.  In order to engage our guests we plan to check out iPads that will serve a variety of purposes throughout their visit.  QR codes can be scanned throughout the building to show virtual student work, videos, and information about the exhibits online! Apart from that, guests will use their iPads to vote for their favorite showcase and the winning student will receive recognition for their amazing work.

Need more inspiration?  Check out my other iPad articles on Apps for Teachers, Apps Across the Curriculum, and Apps for Students.






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The Week in Rap: Flocabulary Partner Course on OLE

Today marks the launch of a new partner course on Pearson’s Online Learning Exchange, “The Week in Rap: Current Events Through Hip-Hop.”

Week in Rap subscribers have access to the all-inclusive, browser-based, interactive version of the Week in Rap music video, which includes lyrics, links to news sources, and assessment activities. Subscribers also have access to discrete versions of those assets that can be saved to your OLE library or downloaded for offline use.

The Week in Rap: February 1, 2013

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About Flocabulary

Flocabulary is an online learning platform that delivers educational hip-hop songs and videos to students in grades K–12. Founded in 2004, Flocabulary is now used in over 15,000 schools and reaches a weekly audience of 5 million students. Its mission is to motivate students and help them reach their full academic potential, not only by raising test scores, but also by fostering a love of learning in every child. Flocabulary’s award-winning songs, videos, and accompanying lessons are proven to engage students and raise scores on state reading tests.

To Subscribe

Want to see what all the buzz is about? Email to get in touch with your local Pearson Account Executive today to inquire about purchasing the Week in Rap OLE course for your school or district! Or register for a free 30-day trial of OLE to see for yourself!

Try it for a year!

Flocabulary Week in Rap – 1-year subscription: 0328776432 $1.50 per student

  • Special price available if you purchase an OLE subject course with the ‘The Week in Rap’

Flocabulary Week in Rap – add-on value pack – 1 year subscription: 032877670X $1.20 per student


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FREE Webinar: 10 Easy Ways to Participate in Digital Learning Day with Richard Byrne

Digital Learning Day is right around the corner. If you’re looking for ways to participate in this year’s event on February 6th, you can’t miss this opportunity to hear from  one of the most prominent professionals in education technology, Richard Byrne.

OLE is celebrating this year’s Digital Learning Day with Ed Tech guru Richard Byrne, author of the 2012 Edublog, Best Ed Tech Blog award-winning website, Free Technology for Teachers. Richard will share 10 easy ways for you and your students to participate in this year’s Digital Learning Day event.

Here is a sample of the types of tips Richard will be sharing during the webinar:

  • Learn how to host your own student TED Talks
  • Learn how to search for quality digital educational content
  • Learn how to share your knowledge with your community of peers
  • Learn how to set up an RSS feed to stay up to date on the latest happenings

You’ll be able to use these tips and more to create authentic learning experiences and prepare your students to become productive global citizens in the 21st century.

Event Details

Who: All K-12 Teachers

When: February 5th, 3:00-4:00 MST


Did we mention that we’ll be giving away 30-day trials of Online Learning Exchange and a 1 year Online Learning Exchange subscription for one lucky attendee and their entire school? Can’t wait to see you all on Tuesday!

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Using MOOCs for Professional Development

MOOCs for Professional Development: What and Why?

What’s a MOOC, and why does it have such a silly name? This trend has exploded in these last few years, and 2013 should be your year to check it out! MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses, and more of these free online classes are being made available this year than ever before. But how can K-12 teachers take advantage of this new online phenomenon, which is usually marketed as a post-secondary tool?

While the MOOC movement has raised questions about its financial solvency and consequences for college education, surprisingly little attention has been paid to those who are interested in the trend not in order to gain a college diploma, but to further their own personal education. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the common MOOC platforms, and how teachers can harness this trend for their own professional development.

Coursera’s one of the biggest players in the MOOC game. They’ve partnered with 33 universities to offer over 200 free online courses. From Biology to Computer Science to Law, browsing through Coursera’s offerings shows their incredible scope. Courses consist of video lectures, online quizzes, and discussion boards. Depending on the course, professors can require readings (often provided online free of charge), essays, and discussion posts. Coursera also offers tools to connect students that are geographically close to one another to form in-person study groups.



Also cited among the giants of MOOC is Udacity, though their course offerings are much more specialized than Coursera’s. Udacity focuses on offering courses related to computers and computer science. While offering some intro courses on physics and statistics, the majority of Udacity’s MOOCs are studies in software testing and website development. What they lack in breadth of choice, though, they more than make up for in practicality and depth of understanding – Udacity’s courses can teach a lot to the computer-curious!



Founded by Harvard University and MIT, edX is another fast-growing MOOC provider. While it also has a strong focus on technology and computer science, the courses offered by edX are rapidly growing, and now include such diverse subjects as Ancient Greece, global poverty, and copyright law. Keep an eye on this one – these course offerings are sure to expand in the future!



While #etmooc is a much smaller member of the MOOC world, it is dedicated specifically to technology in education, and takes a unique approach to the MOOC concept. Each participant in #etmooc creates his or her own blog, and follows the class lectures and discussions across a variety of websites and social networks, including Twitter and Google+. This setup helps teachers learn about using technology in the classroom through hands-on experience and allows for a much more flexible and interactive course structure.

MOOCs aren’t just for those seeking college credit or an edge in the job market. These courses have the potential to be an incredibly useful tool for teachers looking for professional development resources. Because they’re all online, these courses are extremely flexible for a busy teaching schedule, and because they’re completely free, they’re an investment that everyone can afford to make.

Whether you want more ideas about how to integrate technology into your teaching (we recommend Coursera’s Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application or the #etmooc course), you just want to engage deeply in your subject (Social studies teacher? Why not check out edX’s course from Harvard on Justice?), or you want to stimulate your brain by learning about something completely new (how about An Introduction to Artificial Intelligence?), chances are you can find it online for free. Join the millions of MOOC users and expand your own horizons today!

Keep an eye out for future blog posts that take you through the experience of a MOOC step by step as we try a few out for ourselves.

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5 New Year’s Resolutions, 5 New Boards to Follow on Pinterest for Education

In my kitchen at home, I have a big pin board full of postcards, pictures and cinema tickets. My 2013 resolutions didn’t include getting rid of any of them – even if this precarious collage threatens to fall once in a while. On the contrary, I told myself to add more stuff regularly. I don’t want to do less for 2013 but I’d prefer to do more. In order to not over-occupy my kitchen wall though, I’ll concentrate on the virtual pinboards, aka Pinterest.
Following the OLE philosophy of Authentic Learning, here are 5 resolutions for this new year in the classroom, and for each one of them, one Pinterest board to follow in order to make this happen:

1/ ENGAGE – Social media is a good ally to engage your students in the classroom. If starting with Twitter, Facebook or all the other social media intimidates you, this board by  Pearson Social Studies could help in kicking it off.
2/ DISCOVER – If your class was given iPads but you still need more tips, app ideas or techniques, it’s time to follow our dedicated board.
3/ SHARE – Blogging is a fantastic tool to share tips or opinions about the subjects that matter to you. Whether you already have a blog or are just about to start one, this board by Teaching Blog Addict is your new best friend.
4/ BE INSPIRED – The “new me” loves reading (and pinning) inspirational quotes, from TED for instance.
5/ LEARN – New year, new trends. To keep in touch with the latest trends, just subscribe to the ISTE board.
For our next Best of Pinterest post, I’ll be digging up resources about how to make connections. All  suggestions are welcome!

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