Activities


Lesson Plans

Earth Matters (Grades K-2)

Classification activities that will lead students from simple sorting of familiar objects to classifying materials into liquids, gases, and solids.

Helpful Resources:

Who Is King of the Ice Dwarfs?

Who Is King of the Ice Dwarfs?

Learn more about Pluto on NASA's Space Place website.

New Horizons Space Academy

New Horizons Space Academy

The "Space Academy" series, led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and Discovery Education, takes students behind the scenes of actual space missions and introduces them to engineers and scientists working on some of NASA's most exciting projects.

Learn more about Space Academy.

Conduct your own New Horizons Space Academy activities.

Signals and Noise, Oh Boy! (Grades 3-5)

Students are introduced to the terms "signal" and "noise" in the context of spacecraft communication. They explore these concepts by listening to a computer-generated signal from two different distances with no additional background noise, and then with background noise and compare their experiences in a science journal page.

Helpful Resources:

Orbit and Spin (Grades 3-5)

A whole-body activity that explores the relative sizes, distances, orbit, and spin of the Sun, Earth, and Moon.

Discovering Planet "X" (Grades 3-5)

An activity exploring parallax and then simulating the discovery of Pluto with a Blink Comparator via an online interactive.

Helpful Resources:

Earth Calling (Grades 6-8)

A hands-on activity exploring spacecraft radio communication concepts, including the speed of light and the time-delay for signals sent to and from spacecraft.

Helpful Resources:

Appearances Can Be Deceiving! (Grades 6-8)

Students explore the relationship between angular width, actual size, and distance by using their finger, thumb and fist as a unit of angular measurement in this hands-on activity.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio (Grades 6-8)

This activity engages students with a hands-on activity and an online interactive to explore the Signal-to-Noise Ratio, a fundamental concept in spacecraft communication. The activity also includes a pencil-and-paper component that addresses relevant topics, such as proportions and ratios.

Helpful Resources:

What is a Planet? (Grades 9-12)

Students learn about the characteristics of planets, comets, asteroids, and trans-Neptunian objects through a classification activity.  Students can then apply what they have learned by participating in a formal debate about a solar system object discovered by the New Horizons spacecraft and by defining the term ‘planet.’

Invisible Collisions (Grades 9-12)

This activity relates an elastic collision to the change in a satellite’s or spacecraft’s speed and direction resulting from a planetary fly-by, often called a "gravity assist" maneuver. Both hands-on and online interactive methods are used to explore these topics.

Helpful Resources:

Stellar Illumination (Grades 9-12)

Students explore how a stellar occultation occurs, how planetary atmospheres can be discovered, and how planetary diameters can be determined using actual light curves from stellar occultation events.

New Horizons Growth Chart

Download Your Own New Horizons Growth Chart poster:

New Horizons Growth Chart Activities (Grades K-5)

Teacher Lesson Plan
Student Activity Sheet

Students will learn that the New Horizons poster depicts a scale drawing of the Solar System. They will use the poster to track the true progress of the spacecraft.

Learning Goals:

S — Understanding the long distances and timescales involved in space travel.
M — Using fractions and multiplication to change scales/units.

Materials:

  • Poster
  • Student activity sheet
  • Pencil
  • Ruler (cm)

Standards:

S — D: Objects in the Sky; E: Abilities of Technological Design
M — Measurement; Number and Operations; Problem Solving

Teacher Lesson Plan
Student Activity Sheet

Students take imaginary trips through the Solar System on a spacebus and use math skills to find out the next spacebus stop.

S—Understanding the order and distances of the planets from the Sun.
M —Problem solving using multiplication, rounding and fractions.

  • Student activity sheet
  • Pencil

S—D: Objects in the Sky
M —Number and Operations; Problem Solving

Teacher Lesson Plan
Student Activity Sheet

Students will make a scale model of the orbits of the outer planets and explore the peculiarities of Pluto's orbit.

S —Understanding the scale of the Solar System. Learning about Pluto's elliptical and inclined orbit.

  • Student activity sheet (copied onto card stock if possible)
  • Pencil, markers
  • Scissors
  • Paper clips
  • Glue/Glue stick/Tape

S —A: Abilities Necessary to Do Scientific Inquiry; D: Objects in the Sky

Teacher Lesson Plan
Student Activity Sheet
Boys Growth Chart
Girls Growth Chart

Students will measure their height, analyze the heights of classmates, and predict their height at the time New Horizons is scheduled to fly by Pluto using a growth chart.

S—Using a model and measurements to make predictions.
M—Collecting data and finding the mean, mode, and median.

Graphing points on a Cartesian coordinate system.

  • Student activity sheet
  • Pencil

M —Measurement; Data Analysis and Probability

Teacher Lesson Plan
Student Activity Sheet

Students will examine aspects of their life now and predict what it will be like in the future when New Horizons is scheduled to fly by Pluto.

S —Understanding the long timescales of space travel. Predicting and proposing technological solutions that could be used in the future.

  • Student activity sheet
  • Pencil and Markers
  • Scissors
  • Paper towel tube
  • Wrapping paper
  • String or Ribbon

S—Abilities of Technological Design

E —5: Use the writing process to communicate; 8: Use technological resources to gather and synthesize information

Teacher Lesson Plan
Student Activity Sheet

Students will determine the length of one year on the nine planets and match historical events that occurred on Earth one year ago on these planets.

S—Learning the astronomical meaning of a year and the timescales associated with planets with large orbits.

  • Student activity sheet
  • Pencil

S—A: Abilities Necessary to Do Scientific Inquiry

Models

Make Your Own Pluto Globe (All Ages)

Assemble your own globe of Pluto using images from the Hubble Space Telescope—the best images of Pluto we have had until New Horizons!

Make a Model of the Pluto/Charon System (All Ages)

Pluto and Charon are a binary system. Build your own model of a binary system and see what makes it so unique! With adult help, children of any age will enjoy this activity.

Build Your Own New Horizons Spacecraft (Ages 10+)

Best suited for ages 10+, build a scale model of the New Horizons spacecraft!

Spacecraft Model Files

Spacecraft Model Files

Build your own 3D New Horizons spacecraft model.

Below is a zipped file of .stl-formatted printable models including instructions for printing and assembly.

We understand that 3D printing often involves trial and error. You may make adjustments or changes when printing these models.

Download STL files (ZIP, 2.29 MB)

Model Design Diagram

Mission Overview Fact Sheet

Download PDF