McGarry and Students Help Explain Meteorite Impacts

March, 2011

Professor Mary Ann McGarry and Plymouth State graduate students Dan Straffon and Chuck Patterson will publish a feature article in an upcoming issue of Science Scope to help explain theories about the consequences of meteorites striking Earth. Straffon and Patterson first developed and piloted lessons in classrooms. McGarry then created a website to accompany the article that includes videos and other resources related to the topic of impacts and extinctions.  McGarry said the website intends to bring the nature of science to life for middle school students by drawing on interdisciplinary scientific research about a theory related to past climate change and extinctions that occurred at the end of the last ice age. Hands-on activities from a variety of sources, to further enhance the lesson and engage students, can also be found on the website. Learning objectives for activities on the website are aligned with different educational standards, like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) benchmarks. The material is intended to give one pause in considering the risk of future impacts and the potential for technological solutions.

“The evolution of science is seldom about solitary individuals busy at work in labs making discoveries, especially not in the Earth sciences, where time-intensive field work is usually required,” McGarry said. “Could a meteor entering the Earth’s atmosphere around 12,900 years ago be responsible for the mass extinction of the megafauna of North America—the large sloths, mastodons, woolly mammoths, and saber tooth cats found in the fossil record? This is the case with the new ‘airburst’ theory put forth by a large team of interdisciplinary scientists including geologists, chemists, and anthropologists, to help explain several mysteries involving climate change and extinctions.”

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