Physics and Astronomy Field Trips

spectrUM is committed to supporting the next generation of scientists and innovators by engaging students in hands-on science. The exhibits and activities featured in our field trips are curated to inspire a culture of learning and discovery and are facilitated by trained educators who serve as role models by demonstrating a passion for science and pathways to higher education.

Field trips are designed to give students the opportunity to explore our museum independently to make their own discoveries, as well as work with our educators to learn science concepts through guided experiments and activities. While each field trip topic explores different themes, students and educators will model the scientific method and are encouraged to be curious learners. Field trip curricula are designed to meet NGSS, but may be adapted to all ages and abilities.

Essential Question

What forces affect us and our planet?


Students will learn, and test different forces and physics theories.

Students will experiment with physics principles to understand the physical world around them and the solar system.

Students will build and use models to illustrate physics principles.

Possible Activities

Phases of the moon

Testing and observing the forces of spin

Experimenting with models of exoplanets and the solar system

Creating pocket constellations

Exploring the robotics challenges of Mars rovers

Supporting Assessments

Formative: Educators and students will refer to physics terms and concepts, such as gravity, inertia, the conservation of angular moment, centripetal force, and/or identify celestial bodies, constellations, and moon phases.

Summative: Students will lead discussion using terms and science concepts while building models to demonstrate understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Addressed


  • Simple tests can be designed to gather evidence to support or refute student ideas about causes. (K-PS2-1), (K-PS2-2)
  • Pushes and pulls can have different strengths and directions. (K-PS2-1), (K-PS2-2)
  • Pushing or pulling on an object can change the speed or direction of its motion and can start or stop it. (K-PS2-1), (K-PS2-2)
  • When objects touch or collide, they push on one another and can change motion. (K-PS2-1)
  • A bigger push or pull makes things speed up or slow down more quickly. (secondary to K-PS2-1)
  • A situation that people want to change or create can be approached as a problem to be solved through engineering. Such problems may have many acceptable solutions. (secondary to K-PS2-2)
  • With guidance, plan and conduct an investigation in collaboration with peers. (K-PS2-1)
  • Analyze data from tests of an object or tool to determine if it works as intended. (K-PS2-2)
  • Scientists use different ways to study the world. (K-PS2-1)
  • Patterns of the motion of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, and predicted. (1-ESS1-1)
  • Patterns in the natural and human designed world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence. (1-ESS1-1), (1-ESS1-2)
  • Use observations (firsthand or from media) to describe patterns in the natural world in order to answer scientific questions. (1-ESS1-1)
  • Seasonal patterns of sunrise and sunset can be observed, described, and predicted. (1-ESS1-2)
  • Objects can be seen if light is available to illuminate them or if they give off their own light. (1-PS4-2)
  • Use tools and materials provided to design a device that solves a specific problem. (1-PS4-4)
  • The shape and stability of structures of natural and designed objects are related to their function(s). (K-2-ETS1-2)
  • Asking questions, making observations, and gathering information are helpful in thinking about problems. (K-2-ETS1-1)

3rd-5th grade

  • Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified, tested, and used to explain change. (3-PS2-3)
  • Each force acts on one particular object and has both strength and a direction. An object at rest typically has multiple forces acting on it, but they add to give zero net force on the object. Forces that do not sum to zero can cause changes in the object’s speed or direction of motion. (Boundary: Qualitative and conceptual, but not quantitative addition of forces are used at this level.) (3-PS2-1)
  • The patterns of an object’s motion in various situations can be observed and measured; when that past motion exhibits a regular pattern, future motion can be predicted from it. (Boundary: Technical terms, such as magnitude, velocity, momentum, and vector quantity, are not introduced at this level, but the concept that some quantities need both size and direction to be described is developed.) (3-PS2-2)
  • Objects in contact exert forces on each other. (3-PS2-1)
  • Ask questions that can be investigated based on patterns such as cause and effect relationships. (3-PS2-3)
  • Make observations and/or measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution. (3-PS2-2)
  • Science investigations use a variety of methods, tools, and techniques. (3-PS2-1)
  • Science findings are based on recognizing patterns. (3-PS2-2)
  • The gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth’s surface pulls that object toward the planet’s center. (5-PS2-1)
  • The sun is a star that appears larger and brighter than other stars because it is closer. Stars range greatly in their distance from Earth. (5-ESS1-1)
  • The orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, together with the rotation of Earth about an axis between its North and South poles, cause observable patterns. These include day and night; daily changes in the length and direction of shadows; and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year. (5-ESS1-2)
  • Support an argument with evidence, data, or a model. (5-ESS1-1), (5-PS2-1)

Middle School

  • Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models. (MS-ESS1-1)
  • Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe. (MS-ESS1-2)
  • The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them. (MS-ESS1-2), (MS-ESS1-3)
  • Patterns can be used to identify cause-and-effect relationships. (MS-ESS1-1)
  • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions. (MS-ESS1-2)
  • Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings. (MS-ESS1-3)
  • For any pair of interacting objects, the force exerted by the first object on the second object is equal in strength to the force that the second object exerts on the first, but in the opposite direction (Newton’s third law). (MS-PS2-1)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (MS-PS2-2)