Lesson 3: Modeling the Big Bang and the formation of the universe


This activity requires approximately one 30-minute class

  • One class for the Big Bang demonstration and student analysis of the demonstration


demonstrate and explain the importance of selecting appropriate processes for investigating scientific questions and solving technological problems (e.g., explain why astrology is not a part of science)
Demonstrate the importance of using the languages of science and technology to compare and communicate ideas, processes, and results (e.g., use appropriate terminology such as "constellations," "planets," "moons," "comets," "asteroids," and "meteors" to describe objects in space)
describe how evidence must be continually questioned in order to validate scientific knowledge (e.g., provide examples of ideas, such as the flat Earth, the Earth as the centre of the solar system, and life on Mars, which were or are being challenged to develop new understandings of the natural world)
Identify and control major variables in their investigations (e.g., predict what variables might affect the size of craters on the moon, using a flour and marble simulation)
plan a set of steps to solve a practical problem and to carry out a fair test of a science-related idea (e.g., plan a procedure to test a hypothesis in a simulated moon crater activity)
Record observations using a single word, notes in point form, sentences, and simple diagrams and charts (e.g., use a data table to record night sky observations)
compile and display data, by hand or by computer, in a variety of formats including frequency tallies, tables, and bar graphs (e.g., prepare a diagram showing the orbits of the planets)

General Objectives

Through this activity, students will become more familar with the Big Bang theory for the formation of the universe. Students will have the opportunity to compile and graph experiencial data.

Curricular Connections

  • Language Arts
    • Descriptive writing
  • Mathematics
    • Compiling and graphing data

Lesson Overview

This activity involves having students analyze the results of a Big Bang demonstration. The teacher will use the explosion of a balloon filled with coloured confetti to model the results of the Big Bang.

Materials and Resources

  • balloons of various sizes
  • coloured confetti
  • graph paper
  • masking tape


  • galaxy
  • elliptical
  • spiral
  • barred spiral
  • Hubble Deep Field
  • Hubble Space Telescope

Developing the Lesson

Before letting students into the classroom, the teacher should move all the desks to provide a large open area at the center of the class. The teacher should then use masking tape to divide the open space into four quardants. Students should then be allowed to enter the class and to form a line at the back of the class. Without saying a word, the teacher produces a blown up balloon filled with confetti. The teacher will then pop the balloon without saying a word. The balloon should be held high enough for all students to clearly see the results. Once the pieces of confetti have all had a chance to fall, the teacher will then begin with the following focus questions.

  1. What just happend?
  2. Did you notice anything about where the pieces of confetti flew?
  3. What event in the history of the universe could this demostration be used to model?

Commencing the activity:

  1. The teacher will then explain that there were relatively the same number of each colored pieces in the balloon and will begin to lay out the task for the students.
  2. Students are to be divided into four groups, one for each quardrant.
  3. Students within the group must decide on one recorder to begin recording the results.
  4. Students should then work in their groups to formulate an explanation of what they observed from the demonstration.
  5. Students will then begin analyzing their assigned quadrant.
  6. Students must decide what they will focus on:
    • location of the confetti
    • colour distribution
    • clumping of confetti
  7. Students will continue their analysis until a specified amount of time has passed.
  8. Students will then be required to represent their results on the graph paper provided.
  9. Students might choose any of the following or perhaps other ways
    • mapping the locations of the pieces
    • frequency chart indicating the colour distribution
    • a paragraph describing the confetti in their quardrant
  10. Students should then be asked to clean up their quardrant and to reassemble in a line at the back of the class
  11. Teacher should proceed with the closure activity


As a closure activity, the teacher may want to repeat the poping of the balloon with balloons blown to different sizes. Although it is not necessarily to have students repeat the entire activity, they can simply observe an comment on similarities and differences they observed compared to the original event.

At the very end of class, students should be asked to write a short paragraph describing the events of the class. Students should be encouraged to comment on the accuracy of the model to describe the Big Bang and how this may conflict with or reaffirm their personal convictions about the formation of the universe.


The key to this activity is having students look at essentially raw data in order to formulate a working explanation for the Big Bang based on the model they observed. Students should be evaluated on the rationale they include for their analysis of their quardrant, their choice of data representation, and also on their ability to work within their groups.

The following rubric may be helpful for evaluations.

Cooperative Learning Rubric
CATEGORY Excellent Good Satisfactory Needs Improvement
Contribution to Group Regularly provides useful ideas to group; contributes a strong effort Often provides useful ideas to group; tries hard Sometimes provides useful ideas to group; does what is required Rarely provides useful ideas to group; may refuse to participate
Quality of Work Highest quality work High quality work Work sometimes needs monitoring or re-doing Work usually needs monitoring or re-doing
Effectiveness Regularly paces work well; does not need to be encouraged to get work done on time Usually paces work well; may have needed some encouragement to get work done on time, but does not hold up group's progress Tends to procrastinate, but always gets work done on time Rarely paces work well; group's progress is held up by inadequate time management
Attitude Never openly critical of project or others' work; positive attitud Rarely openly critical of project or others' work; mostly positive attitude Sometimes openly critical of project or others' work; partially negative attitude Often openly critical of project or others' work; mostly negative attitude
Preparedness Always ready to begin tasks Almost always ready to begin tasks Almost always brings needed materials, but distractions sometimes slow progress Often forgets to bring materials or is rarely ready to begin tasks
Collaboration Almost always contributes to group dynamic by listening, sharing, and supporting others' efforts; encourages  group unity Usually contributes to group dynamic by listening, sharing, and supporting others' efforts; does not create problems for group Sometimes contributes to group dynamic by listening, sharing, and supporting others' efforts; sometimes a poor team player Rarely contributes to group dynamic by listening, sharing, and supporting others' efforts; often a poor team player