Galaxies Galore,
Games and More
Teacher Page: Lesson Plan- Details



Desired Learning Outcomes
New Vocabulary
General Misconceptions
Preparation Time
Execution Time
Physical Layout of the Room
Follow-up Activities/Extensions
One-Computer Classrooms
Classrooms without Computers
Home Schooler



The purpose of this lesson is for students to gain a general understanding of the structure of galaxies such as their own galaxy (the Milky Way) and to acquire knowledge about the three main types of galaxies. Within this lesson the elementary student will develop skills required in scientific inquiry: recognition of pattern, identification of attributes, and classification. Galaxies Galore, Games and More provides students with an interactive lesson that allows for levels of understanding based on their ability and desire to learn about galaxies.

Desired Learning Outcomes:

  1. Practice skills used in scientific investigation: observation, identification of attributes, recognition of pattern, application to a new set of data.
  2. Identify Earth as part of the Milky Way galaxy.
  3. Identify the parts of galaxies.
  4. Identify the types of galaxies.
  5. Classify galaxies by size and shape.
  6. Apply knowledge of galaxies to classify various objects from the Hubble Deep Field.


Before attempting to complete this lesson, the student should:

  1. Understand that some things in the universe are beyond visual sight and can only be seen using a telescope.
  2. Understand that the universe is made up of planets, stars, planetary systems, and galaxies.
  3. Demonstrate an ability to match similar objects.

New Vocabulary:

Hubble Space Telescope
Elliptical Galaxy
Spiral Galaxy
Barred Spiral Galaxy
Irregular Galaxy
Light Year
Blue Star
Yellow Star
Red Star
Milky Way
Colliding Galaxies
Spiral Arms

General Misconceptions:

Students may have misconceptions regarding the distance and size of galaxies. They may not understand that galaxies are groups of stars— not just single stars. They may not know that galaxies come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Preparation Time:

  1. Time necessary to download computer software to support the lesson.
  2. Teachers should allow time to preview all of the activities and to read the science background pages. These pages will provide additional content that will help teachers to answer questions posed by students.
  3. By previewing the lesson plan, teachers will be able to identify follow-up activities, allow time for gathering supplies, and determine time needed to complete selected activities.

Execution Time for Activities:

The amount of time needed to complete any of these activities depends on a number of variables, such as the length of class period or teaching time, the number of computers available, and the ability level of the students. One possible way to jump start your lesson and eliminate the trial-and-error approach is to do one activity or a part of an activity with the students as a directed lesson. Use an overhead, an LCD, or TV monitor to project the lesson to the class. The following are estimated times for individual students to work through entire activities.

  1. Build the Milky Way- 10 minutes
  2. Spiral Shapes- 10 minutes
  3. Elliptical Slide- 10 minutes
  4. Imagine Irregulars- 10 minutes
  5. Galaxy Card Games-20 minutes
    a. Game I- Concentration
    b. Game II- Trading Cards
  6. Galaxy Hunt- 20 minutes

Physical Layout of Room:

Teachers may decide whether students will work in small groups of two or three, or individually. No more than three students should share a computer in order to maximize learning. Adaptations can be made to accommodate classrooms having a single computer with Internet access. These might include using an overhead projector with an LCD to project the computer image onto a screen or a hookup from a computer to a television monitor.

You can also do Galaxies Galore, Games and More off-line. Different software programs provide off line access to the Internet. Their programs allow you to save Web pages to your local hard drive. Using your Netscape browser you can open the Web pages locally and experience the lesson as if you were on the Internet. Using this option, however, will deny students access to the rest of the pages available on the World Wide Web and to the movies found in the Galaxy Galleries.


This lesson requires a computer with a color monitor and an Internet connection. The Web browser used must have at least the capability of Netscape's Navigator 3.0. and the most recent version of Shockwave. For additional information, see the Computer Needs section.


This is a self-directed interactive computer activity. Students may work independently or in small groups to complete each activity. Students will learn the parts of a galaxy and learn to classify galaxies by size and shape.

Suggested Engagement Activities:

  1. Use images of galaxies taken from the Grab Bag or the Space Telescope Science Institute's Web site and project them on a screen or television monitor to generate interest.
  2. Select some of the books from the literature list found in the Grab Bag section of this site. Have the books available in the classroom. Have students "shop the book store" and predict what topics all of the books have in common.
  3. Check the extension activities for other ideas.

Step-by-step Instructions:

Galaxies Galore, Games and More consists of three modules. The first two modules should be completed before the Galaxy Games. In "Build Our Milky Way" students construct the galaxy we call home. In "Galaxies Galore" students learn to identify spiral, elliptical and irregular galaxies. In "Galaxy Games" students apply their observational skills and knowledge. Each page of the Web-based activity has two extensions: Galaxy Gossip and Galaxy Gallery. In Galaxy Gossip additional information is supplied. In Galaxy Gallery additional images that will extend the concept are supplied. In order to access both of these extensions it is necessary for the student to pass the cursor onto the boxes and click the mouse.

Build Our Milky Way:

This is an interactive construction of our spiral galaxy, the Milky Way. Students click on picture parts that will light up in their correct position in a large picture of our galaxy. A definition will be displayed after the galaxy part is illuminated. Additional information about our galaxy can be found by linking to Galaxy Gallery and Galaxy Gossip.

Galaxies Galore:

Spiral galaxies - This is an interactive matching activity where students drag color images of spiral and barred spiral galaxies to black and white pictures of identified spiral categories. Information about each classification group can be obtained upon completion of each image. Extended information can be obtained from Galaxy Gossip and Galaxy Gallery.

Elliptical Slide - This is an interactive game where students use a slide bar to light up and show the classification of elliptical galaxies. Definitions can be found on EO and E7 galaxies. Knowledge of ellipticals can be extended by the use of Galaxy Gossip and Galaxy Gallery.

Imagine Irregulars - Animations are used to demonstrate the sorting of objects into known galaxy categories. In the process students learn that it is sometimes necessary to create a new category. Irregular galaxies and the concept of colliding galaxies are introduced. Additional information is provided in Galaxy Gossip and Galaxy Gallery.

Galaxy Games:

Galaxy Concentration - Students can use their visual discrimination ability to match picture-to-picture images of galaxies. Students will flip cards to match Hubble images.

Galaxy Trading Cards - Students can use their knowledge of galaxy classification categories to play a card game matching pictures to facts. When the activity is completed the student will have created a mosaic picture of the galaxy M51.

Galaxy Hunt - This interactive assessment uses images from the Hubble Deep Field. Students match various galaxies observed in the deep field to the corresponding classification. A tally records the number of each type of galaxy observed by the student. Additional information can be obtained from Galaxy Gallery and Galaxy Gossip.

Galaxy Gallery:

An extension of the concept found on each page. The additional images enhance the material found on the page.

Gravity Gossip:

An extension found on each page that provides the student with additional background information.


After completing the first two modules, where students identify parts of galaxies and different types of galaxies, the final module allows the students to apply their knowledge. In the card games students observe, categorize, and separate a Hubble image into an appropriate classification. In the Hubble Deep Field activity students observe, identify as to type, and quantify the types of galaxies observed.


Solutions to all the activities are built into each page. In the "Build the Milky Way," as a student clicks on a part the appropriate part lights up on the Milky Way image. In "Spiral Shapes," as the student drags the galaxy image to the correct classification, the color image remains. In "Elliptical Slide," the slide bar lights up a variety of elliptical galaxies. In the animation "Imagine Irregulars," the cartoon character successfully sorts the images to solve his problem. In "Galaxy Concentration," when a student correctly matches the cards, they remain face-up. In "Trading Cards," a successful completion is determined by the image of M51. In "Galaxy Hunt," Hubble Deep Field galaxies are added to the count when the students' identification is correct.

Follow-up Activities/Interdisciplinary Connections:

Students may complete other related activities found in the Grab Bag selection of the teachers' guide. In addition, images found at the Space Telescope Science Institute home page could be printed out and used as flash cards. These could be classified by the students for type of galaxy or parts of galaxies. A variety of new NASA posters is available at your closest NASA Educator Resource Center.

Connections to other disciplines can be used to broaden the students' discussion of galaxies.

Art- Students can draw a picture of their favorite galaxies.

English- Students can write galaxy poems and stories.

General Science- Students can extend their knowledge of galaxies to other areas of astronomy or cosmology such as planets, stars, and nebula. They can continue to come back to the Space Telescope Science Institute home page to monitor new images being discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Math- Students can try to estimate the number of stars (hundreds of billions of stars per galaxy; hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe), attempt to understand the vast distance between galaxies, and try to estimate how many solar systems might be found around stars other than our Sun. Interesting fact: there are more stars in the universe than one hundred times all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth.

Biology- Students can draw and write about what life might be like in another galaxy.

One-Computer Classrooms:

It is recommended that teachers project the images from the computer onto a classroom screen using an overhead LCD or television screen. To facilitate a more organized and predictable large-group presentation and avoid last-minute glitches, consider bookmarking the lesson (such as one of the pages that you wish to use) and downloading it onto your hard disk. This will eliminate the inconvenience of unexpectedly going off the Internet.

Classrooms without Computers:

  1. Teachers may receive galaxy trading cards from the closest NASA Educator Resource Center. These can be used as teaching aids and can be used to play a matching game. There are also posters and other lithographs available from NASA.
  2. If your school has one or more computers located outside of your classroom, students may experience the lesson individually or in small groups as a learning station.
  3. Many students have computers at home with access to the Internet. You may want to consider assigning Galaxies Galore, Games and More as homework.

Home Schooler:

This lesson is easily followed without additional teacher support if the prerequisites are met. Parents can preview the lesson and examine the teacher pages ahead of time. A wealth of information related to astronomy can be found at HubbleSite, the Hubble Space Telescope's website at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Here you can find background information on the telescope, pictures and news releases of past and present stories, education activities, and other science resources.

More information for the home-schooled can be found at:


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