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Educator Resource: Curriculum Module

‘We are Made of Starstuff’

Are all elements created in equal abundance? What do the carbon in our bodies, the gold in the Black Hills, and the xenon in LZ have in common? Learn about the formation of elements in the cosmos.
High School
Time required
A minimum of ten 55-minute sessions

Students take their understanding of the periodic table to a third dimension, through the topic of nucleosynthesis (formation of the elements). They explore the nuclear processes of radioactive decay, fusion and fission. Then, armed with that basic knowledge, delve into processes that formed the elements: Big Bang, stellar and explosive nucleosynthesis. These topics introduce physical and earth/space science standards that are often not covered in the standard curriculum. 


We are Made of Starstuff-- The Formation of the Elements in the Cosmos

HS-PS1-8 Develop models to illustrate the changes in the composition of the nucleus of the atom and the energy released during the processes of fission, fusion and radioactive decay.

HS-PS3-3 Design, build and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.

HS-PS3-5 Develop and use a model of two objects interacting through electric or magnetic fields to illustrate the forces between objects and the changes in energy of the objects due to the interaction.

HS-ESS1-1 Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the life span of the Sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the Sun’s core to release energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation.

HS-ESS1-2 Construct an explanation of the Big Bang Theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies and composition of matter in the universe.

HS-ESS1-3 Communicate scientific ideas about the way stars, over their life cycle, produce elements.