No Escape: The Truth About Black Holes

Teacher Page: Overview


Description / overview of the lesson
How to prepare for an "Online exploration"
Process skills acquired
Target audience / grade levels
Preparation time
Execution time
Last update

Description / overview of the lesson:

No Escape: The Truth About Black Holes provides an opportunity for students to research the fascinating topic of black holes and to examine the concepts of escape velocity, gravity, mass, and the speed of light as they apply to black holes. Spectacular images provided by the Hubble Space Telescope illustrate the lesson and provide data that the students will use to write a description of a black hole for a chosen audience.

How to Prepare for an “Online Exploration”

Decide if the activity meets your needs.

  1. Check out the activity ahead of time by working through it as your students will. As you go through the activity, pay attention to the following:
  2. Check out the “Teaching Tips” for the following information.
    • Overview: Serves as a broad, comprehensive summary of the activity, including a description, the concepts covered, prerequisites, and the target audience.
    • Science Background: Provides information about the science behind the activity. It clarifies important concepts used in the activity and contains a message from the scientist who worked with the team to develop it.
    • Lesson Plan: Addresses specific recommendations for using the activities, including learning outcomes, new vocabulary, misconceptions, engagement activities (under the heading procedure/directions), and follow-up activities. Includes suggestions for using the activity in one-computer classrooms and those without computers.
    • National Standards: Provides alignment between the activity and the National Science Education Standards, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Curriculum and Evaluation Standards, and the Project 2061 Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy Standards. Many state and local standards were developed from these so it should be easy to check for correlations.
    • Grab Bag: Provides resources for educators who wish to customize the activity. Includes images from the activity, which can be used to develop your own interactive lesson. Also identifies resources used in the activity and others related to the topic, which can be used by students and educators to do further research.

Before using the activities...

  1. Check out your computers.
  2. Determine a strategy for organizing your students. Options include the following:
  3. Think about how this online activity matches up with teaching materials that are already available to you. These might include:
    • Curriculum guides
    • Textbooks
    • Videos
    • Posters
    • Labs

Preparing students

  1. Share the objectives and the key vocabulary words used in the activity.
  2. Use a large monitor, LCD, or transparencies to give a preview of the activity and to demonstrate how to navigate within it.
  3. Give your students a computer/Web pre-assessment to determine their computer experience and/or competence.
  4. Organize your students in such a way that more experienced users are matched up with less experienced ones.
  5. Try one of the Suggested Engagement Activities, which can be found under Procedure/Directions in the Lesson Plan section of the activity’s Teaching Tips.

While students are doing an activity…

  1. Help individual students navigate through the activity.
  2. Provide options for those who finish the activity early:
    • Have them review the activity again to define key vocabulary words.
    • Have them visit related Web links to conduct additional research.
    • Have them completing some type of assessment activity. A number of these can be found under Follow-up Activities/Extensions in the Lesson Plan section of the activity’s Teaching Tips.

Using the activities without an Internet connection

  1. Order a CD of the activities.
  2. For activity-specific suggestions, consult the Classrooms Without Computers section (in the Lesson Plan section of the activity’s Teaching Tips).
  3. Print the information provided in the Science Background, which might be useful for content reading.
  4. Download the activity in advance from the Amazing Space Web site. Instructions are in the Computer Needs section accessed from the activity’s title page.
  5. Go to the activity’s Grab Bag section and select text, student activities, or other Internet links that direct you to related topics.


Earth science


The escape velocity of a planet or star depends on its mass and radius.
Gravity is a basic force of nature created between objects that have mass.
The speed of light, 300,000 km/s, is the universal "speed limit."
A black hole is the result of runaway gravity that compresses mass into a singularity.


To complete the informational sections of the module a student should be familiar with the concepts of:

mass versus weight
speed of light

Process skills acquired:

Communication of researched background material

Target audience / grade levels:

Astronomy / Mathematics / Earth science / Physics courses (Grades 8-12)

Preparation time:

1. Time necessary to download computer software to support the lesson (Netscape Navigator 3.0 or better or Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or better).
2. Time necessary to become familiar with the lesson.

Execution time by module:

The following are approximate times and depend, in part, on your school's Internet location, (i.e. classroom, library, computer lab), the number of computers available with Internet access, and the number of students in the class.

"Is a Black Hole Really a Hole?" — 25 - 30 minutes

"Beats Us - You Explain It" — 30 minutes


In progress.

Last update:

January 10, 2013

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