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Solar System

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Lesson ideas for teaching about the solar system

Solar System
Posted by: Jennie

Have you considered introducing this unit based upon the Earth and its place in the solar system? Since you have second graders (I don't know how advanced they are) you might want to start here and introduce the rest of the solar system based upon its relation to the position of the Earth. Just an idea. I teach third and our focus is supposed to be on the sun and moon and their relation to the Earth, but I end up teaching about the entire solar system. The kids are always really in to it, and why waste a teachable moment? Just do whatever your gut tells you about how much to teach them, but start with something they know. Also a great time to talk about seasons and weather. AIMS has a great book about the solar system for grades 4-8, however I do use some of the activities for my third graders. I have just simplified them a bit. E-mail if you have any other questions. Hope this helps!

Solar System ideas
Posted by: Amy

We are just finishing up a solar system unit in my second grade class. Some of the activities we did with the kids included having them cut out and paste the planets on a long black piece of paper in order and color them according to their colors. We also were and still might do a constellation lesson in which we turn off all the lights and make it as dark as possible and them have a pieces of construction paper with holes cut out in the shape of various constellations such as the big dipper and Orion's belt. We also kept a space log and everyday that we studied space we would write on an overhead what they learned and they would copy it on their own log sheet. We also had them make solar system mobiles in the shape of a sun, which they decorated and then we punched holes through note cards and tied them to the mobile with string. On each note card students put facts on both sides of the note card they had learned about the solar system. We are also in the process of making rocket ships which students will decorate and in the middle will be a piece of writing paper that students will write either fictionally about their trip in space or about different space facts that they have learned. If these help let me know I have a few more ideas.

solar system
Posted by: Janet

I just finished teaching a unit on the solar system. The day I taught about the planet, Mars (the red planet)my second graders cut red pictures out of magazines. I gave them a piece of paper (card stock) with a large circle. Each student tore their red pictures into small pieces (approximately 3/4 inch piece) and glued the pieces to the circle and make a collage of Mars, the red planet. On the day I taught Saturn, the students made a postcard. My school system is pushing maps. We brainstormed and wrote words in a circle map about Saturn. The students made a postcard (one sheet of copy paper that resembled a postcard) The students wrote to their family or friends about what they saw on the way to Saturn and on Saturn and how much fun they were having. I gave them a Saturn sticker as a stamp when I walked around and checked their work. They were able to color the planet, Saturn on the opposite side like a postcard. During P.E. from a hat I drew two names of students who had followed directions and did not get their pins pulled during the unit on the solar system. These students wore dryer vent sleeves/gloves and became the captain of their team. They played a relay race in which they had to move moon rocks (foil balled up) with tongs from one hula hoop to another. They snacked on star crunches or moon pies.

Edible Solar System
Posted by: Melodee

I've used a lesson on making a solar system with different candies. It doesn't get the true size difference but does bring out some characteristics. You can either draw your orbits on black construction paper or a paper plate. Sun- butterscotch, Mercury- orange jujube; Venus- Nestle's sno caps; Earth- blue Skittle; Mars- red Skittle; asteroid belt- candy sprinkles; Jupiter- peppermint with red hot stuck on top; Saturn- lemon drop with twizzler wrapped around; Uranus- green Jujube; Neptune- aqua Skittle; Pluto- tart n tiny. I changed some of the candies that I couldn't find and used some sweet tarts and mini M&Ms.

You can also give each student a planet and let them guess how far they would be from the sun (I generally give where Pluto is so they have a confined area) then have them measure the correct amount. At is a converter that will make your solar system any size!

Solar system
Posted by: Mary

My class makes small models of the solar system using free paint sticks fromn the hardware store as a base.
1. Have students paint the stick with black tempra paint on the top and all sides. Write their name on the bottom.
2. After school, I spatter paint the sticks with white tempra paint, using an old stiff toothbrush to make tiny white flecks on top of the black, representing the stars in the sky.
3. Students paint 1 1/2 inch styrofoam balls with yellow tempra paint for the sun. Push a toothpick into each ball as a handle while the students are painting to avoid messy hands. I also attach a small sticky note to each toothpick while they are drying so each person gets his/her own sun back. When dry, remove the toothpick!
4. The planets are made from fimo clay in various colors to represent each planet. Green and blue mixed together for Earth, yellow for jupiter, add a red dot to the side for the big red spot, saturn is red, cur it in half, add a circle of tagboard for the ring and glue it back togetherto create a ball again, use your imagination for the other planet colors.
4. Glue all of the planets and the sun onto the paintstick. Hot glue works well for this.
5. On your computer, write the names of the planets in very small font to add to the very front edge of the paintstick. Cool! These are great for display at Open House!

solar system books
Posted by: Nancy

Good timing! I just brought mine home today to decide what to use this year!

Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System
" " " Out of this World (About Space Rocks)

Out in Space by Tim Wood

Postcards from Pluto by Loreen Leedy

Stargazers by Gail Gibbons

Do Stars Have Points by M. & G. Berger

Have fun!

Planets in our Solar System by F. Branley

Solar System by Gregory Vogt

Solar System Jepordy
Posted by: Mary

When we had done some extensive study of the solar system we summed it all up with a game of "Astronomy Jepordy" I created categories: The Sun, The Planets, Astronomy, THe Solar System and The Earth. We split the class up into teams.
If you are interested I can send you my information. It was fun and the kids were excited to have been able to remember what had been previously taught.

Solar System
Posted by: Beth

We made our own play doh and used it to make a model of the solar system. It took quite a while to make the play doh and it was pretty messy so I think that I'll just buy play doh next year. The kids really loved making it though.
Another idea (and I think I read this on this site somewhere: We made aliens for each planet. The kids had to work in groups to make an alien that had adapted to life on each planet. For ex., one group made an alien that had adapted to live on Pluto by "growing" an internal "heater" so that he would not freeze in the frigid temperatures. The aliens turned out really cute and we hung them up in the hall. Hope it helps!

solar system
Posted by: melissa michaud

I recently wrapped up a unit on the solar system with my third grade class. This is one of the activites they really enjoyed. We read the book, Postcards from Outerspace, a very kid-friendly informational book about the planets. Afterwrds, on large blank index cards, they were asked to choose a planet and write a postcard to a friend or family member giving them as much information about that planet as possible. They were to make an illustration of the planet on the front of the postcard. This is also a great way to tie in proper addressing skills. I even found alien stamp stickers at a local teacher's store. Good Luck!!!!

Solar system
Posted by: Mary

One of our favorites is a Planetary Weather Report. I think we got the idea from a Scholastic planet book. We have a team of weather persons who report the weather forcast for each planet. (This reinforces the extreme temperature differences on the planets.) The rest of the students team up and create solar system type commercials. We try to set it up as real t.v broadcast. We video tape it to watch at a later date. It is really fun.

Solar System on playground
Posted by: Emma

I remember when I was in school we divided into 10 groups (one for each planet and one for the sun). We then drew our solar system on the playground with chalk. We had to figure out our planet's distance from the sun, size, and information such as coloring, moons, etc. It was a great research project and practice on our math skills.

solar system model
Posted by: JohnV

This web page has an imbedded calculator that will give you dimensions for parts of the solar system. You enter the size that you want the sun to be and the calculator figures the scale diameters of the planets and their orbits as well as other scale numbers.

I hope this helps you and that you have fun with it.


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solar system
Posted by: Julianne

Raid your school library for books about the planets. You might have to go to the local library as well. Put these books at your science center as resources. Now create a sheet to photocopy with an outline of a planet at the top (just a large circle) and room for fill-in-the-blank information at the bottom. The fill in part should read something like this:

Planet: _______________
Order from sun: _________
Number of moons (or satellites): ______________
Something interesting I discovered about this planet: ______________________-

You can make these fill ins easier or more difficult depending on your students. At center time students choose one planet and color in the circle to look like its photos. Then they search the books to fill in the information about their planet. We keep our finished sheets in a manila file folder that we turn into the cover for a planets book once we have done all 9.

Space Models
Posted by: JohnV

My favorite model of the solar system is one in which the sun is represented by a golf ball. The terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) and Pluto are represented by grains of salt. The gas giants are represented by a BB for Jupiter and 2mm cake decorations for Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

You have to have a place where you can lay these things out in a straight line about 200 m long. I take my classes outside and use one entire side of our campus. The distances between the planets at this scale can be calculated using the online calculator at the URL below. This calculator can be used to set up a solar system at any scale. You enter the size you want the Sun to be and the calculator tells you everything else. This site has lots of links to other sites with model suggestions as well.

This URL takes you to the Exploratorium's "Build a Solar System" page:

Have fun!


Estimation of distance between earth and the moon
Posted by: Lori 2

I like to have my students estimate the distance from the earth to the moon with this visual representation. Using scale models provides an opportunity to put meaning to astronomical units.


12 inch globe
23 feet of string
tennis ball
transparent tape
calculator and reference materials, if desired

I do this with older students so they have to do some calculations.


Place or hold the globe in a corner of the room.
Tell students that if the earth was the size of the globe, the moon would be the size of the tennis ball. Ask them to think about how far apart the moon and earth would be if they were really this size.

Ask a student to place the tennis ball noon at a distance from the globe that represents how far apart the moon and earth are. Or have students stand where they estimate the scale distance.

Tape the end of the string to the equator of the globe. Wrap the string around the globe 3 times. Give students the opportunity to change their estimates of distance. Wrap 3 more times (total of 6 so far). Give students another opportunity to change their estimate. Continue wrapping string around the globe. The string should wrap around the globe a total of 9.5 times. (Note: the distance between the earth and moon is apx. 238,606 miles or 384,000km. The earth's circumference is apx 24,855 miles or 40,000km)

Unwrap the string (keeping the end taped to the Earth's equator) and extend it outward to each person to judge the accuracy of their estimate.

Discuss how estimates could have been modified more accurately. The reason why the string is wrapped around the globe 9.5 times is because we have used the circumference of the Earth to represent our base line distance to the moon. I ask my students to divide the distance between the earth and moon by the circumference of the earth and see how accurate our method of estimation was.

Higher level thinking for older students: How many earth diameters could fit between the earth and moon and why? (answer 24,855 miles (earth's cicumference) divided by 3.14159 (pi) + 7,912 miles (earth's diameter) then 238,606 miles (the distance from earth to the moon) divided by 7.912 miles (diamter of the earth) = 30 earth diamters to go from earth to the moon.

Create a larger model of the distance from earth to the moon. Remember, the diameter of your moon should be 1/4 the diameter of your earth.