First, students will view an engaging video about the recent arrival of the New Horizons spacecraft at Pluto. Students will create a sketch of the solar system to show their current understanding of the relative sizes and distances of the objects in our solar system. Students will then scale the diameters of the Sun, eight main planets, and Pluto, as well as the planets' distances from the sun. Students will be required to utilize mathematical skills, such as division, rounding, and metric system conversions. After scaling the diameters and orbits of the objects in our solar system, students will create a scaled model of the solar system using a roll of toilet paper.
This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.
This lesson allows students to construct solar system models showing the comparative sizes of the planets to a scale. The students will also use their models to carry out an investigation to analyze and interpret the distances between planets in the Solar System. This lesson uses common objects easily obtained by teachers.
This lesson was created as part of the 2016 NASA STEM Standards of Practice Project, a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
Students will develop a scale model of the sun, Earth, and moon system based on a one-meter sun. Students will first interact with a technology-based scaled model and view a video clip on scaling the solar system. Students will then scale the diameter of the Earth and moon, as well as the distance from the Earth to the sun, and from the Earth to moon. Students will be required to utilize mathematical skills, such as division, rounding, and metric system conversions. After scaling the diameters and distances, students will create the scaled model.
Observe and read about Earth’s cosmic neighborhood and objects found in space with this annotated slideshow of NASA images. This slideshow can pique students’ interest and provide opportunities to ask questions about various objects found beyond Earth’s surface as they consider what telescopes have revealed. This is a great activity to introduce objects in the solar system before students make their own models.
Support materials include Background Reading, Teaching Tips, and Discussion Questions. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA.
The sun is an average size star and the center of our solar system. One of the things surrounding it is an asteroid belt, and the four planets inside that belt are called the inner planets.
The classroom resource provides a slide show that will describe the components of the inner section of our solar system: the sun, the asteroid belt, and the four inner planets. This resource can provide background information for students before they create their own models. There is also a short test that can be used to assess students' understanding.
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are the outer planets of our solar system. There is a dwarf planet called Pluto out there, too!
The classroom resource provides a slide show that will describe the components of the outer section of our solar system: the four outer planets and the dwarf planet, Pluto. This resource can provide background information for students before they create their own models. There is also a short test that can be used to assess students' understanding.
In this lesson, students have the chance to view the solar system and identify the sun and planets that compose it, which is consistent with recommendations that students begin to pay attention to sizes, distances, and other basic concepts dealing with the universe. Students will then be well prepared to explore a Web resource on the planet Mercury—developed by the Adler Planetarium—which is the central focus of this lesson.