Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
4 students
Active Time
70 minutes
Total Time
70 minutes
Area of Science
Astronomy
Key Concepts
Solar system
Learning Objectives
  • Calculate the size of a model planet and its distance to the Sun when the actual measurements of the planet and the scale factor is given.
  • Calculate the scale factor when the actual measurements of the solar system and the model are given.
  • Learn facts about the solar system, such as the number of planets in the solar system, the small size of the planets compared to the size of the solar system, that all planets of the solar system orbit the Sun, etc.
Credits
Sabine De Brabandere, PhD, Science Buddies
A representation of the planets in the solar system.

Overview

This hands-on science lesson will help your students get a more accurate view of the solar system by making a scale model. They will do the calculations, make model planets, and find out where to place them so their model reflects reality. Seeing the relative size of the eight planets and their distance from the Sun displayed before them will allow your students to grasp the structure and vastness of the solar system.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • MS-ESS1-3. Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Developing and Using Models. Develop a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking. Use mathematical representations to describe and/or support scientific conclusions and design solutions.
ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System. 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.
Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

Materials


Materials needed to make a solar system model as described in this lesson.

For the class:

  • Tape or glue to attach labels to the planets
  • Spare balloons

For each group of four students:

  • Play dough - store bought or homemade (2– 3 oz)
  • Balloons (4)
  • Metric ruler
  • Cardstock to make labels for the planets
  • Scissors
  • Pen or pencil
  • Calculator
  • Map application on an electronic device or printed map of the nearby area (an area of 10 miles by 10 miles should suffice). Some map apps allow you to download a map in advance, so students do not need internet access to use that map.

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Grade Range
6th-8th
Group Size
4 students
Active Time
70 minutes
Total Time
70 minutes
Area of Science
Astronomy
Key Concepts
Solar system
Credits
Sabine De Brabandere, PhD, Science Buddies
Learning Objectives
  • Calculate the size of a model planet and its distance to the Sun when the actual measurements of the planet and the scale factor is given.
  • Calculate the scale factor when the actual measurements of the solar system and the model are given.
  • Learn facts about the solar system, such as the number of planets in the solar system, the small size of the planets compared to the size of the solar system, that all planets of the solar system orbit the Sun, etc.
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