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MUSE | Earth-Moon-Sun Dynamics | Course Overview and Materials | Introducing Scientific Models | Course Material 3A: Challenge Problems


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students presenting their modelCourse Material 3A: Challenge Problems

As a culminating activity, students are asked to use their EMS model to solve one of several "challenge problems." Each problem contains data about celestial or seasonal phenomena that students haven't encountered before. For example, the students might be asked to explain phases of Venus or eclipses on a different planet. The challenge for the students is to use their EMS model to explain these new scenarios. Successful completion of each problem involves:

  • multiple tasks (or steps), including both written explanations and graphical representations of ideas

  • group work

  • preparation of a poster or three-dimensional representation of explanations

  • public defense of explanations in a poster session

In addition, each problem will require students to:

  • use their EMS model to account for unfamiliar phenomena (effect to cause reasoning)

    Example: In one problem, students are shown a series of computer graphics depicting the phases of Venus as seen from Earth. The students are asked to account for the particular sequence of phases as well as their apparent size using elements of their EMS model.


  • alter some aspect of their EMS model and predict phenomenological outcomes (cause to effect reasoning)

Example: In another problem, students are asked to alter a component of their EMS model, the tilt of Earth on its axis. They are asked to predict what seasonal phenomena would look like if Earth were tilted at 0 rather than 23.5.


In this final activity, the students will work again in groups of two or three to produce a single product. Their final product will be a poster that answers all aspects of the particular challenge question posed and gives both written and graphical justification for their answers. In addition, each student group will present its work to the class during a scientific poster session.