Scale Model of The Sun & Earth

35 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT use a model to explore the relative size of Sun and Earth as well as the distance between them.

Big Idea

Models help us to understand a system or a process and are central to scientific investigations, doing research, and communicating information. Models have a variety of uses but most importantly are a visual tool that provides data.

Bell Ringer - How Far Away Is The Moon?

5 minutes

How Far Away Is The Moon?

Before viewing the video:

A Bell Ringer will get students thinking about the lesson. I ask students this question "How far away is the moon?"  and ask them to Turn and Talk with their partner for one (1) minute. Then, using a basketball and a tennis ball (models CCC#4 can be used to represent systems and their interactions) I ask a pair of students to stand up in front of the class to show the distance between these objects and explain their thinking. After a short discussion, I show the video. 

After viewing the video:

I ask students "What did you learn about the distance between the Earth and Moon or any other objects in our solar system?" Students Turn and Talk with their partner for one (1) minute and then students share their response with the class. Some responses I am looking for include: it's a lot farther than I thought or it's hard to imagine but this model helps.

Model of Sun & Earth

30 minutes

This lesson focuses on MS-ESS1-3 (Earth & Space Science) which states that students will analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system. Students will work towards mastery of this standard as they manipulate a scale model of the Sun and Earth.

Some important skills in this lesson are Science & Engineering Practices 1,2,and 8. SP#1 is the skill of asking questions and defining problems. I want students to ask questions as the make observations of a scale model of the Sun and Earth and to (SP#8) communicate that information to their lab partner. During the investigation, I ask students to (SP#2) use a model of the Sun and Earth to explore the size of the objects as well as the distance between them. Incorporating each of these practices into the lesson adds rigor, provides opportunity for skill development, and "STEM - ifyes" the experience.

At this point in the year, I want students to be more independent, so I provide a worksheet and ask them to complete steps 1 - 3 with their partner. After that process, I ask students "What are some different types of models?" Some responses I am looking for are: a model of a car or airplane or a diagram of the rock cycle. Then I show them a model of the Solar System to give them a visual representation. When I show students a model, they get a deeper understanding of the concept and vocabulary word.

Next, I encourage students to continue working on step 4 - 6 with their partner and provide the materials necessary for them to complete the investigation. As students are working, I circulate the classroom to check for understanding and clarify any misconceptions.

Student Performing Investigation of Scale Model Earth & Sun

Teacher Tip: Find a long hallway, out of the way, so that students can set up their model and complete their investigation.

Student Talking About Distance of Earth to Sun

Note: I want to give credit to the NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration - website for this space resource. The website Sun-Earth Days is a free, reliable, easily accessible resource.


5 minutes

I learned that . . .  because . . . .

Writing a conclusion is a step that is very important for students to "come full circle." I have learned that you need to take students back to the investigation question so they can think about the process. How will a model help me understand the distance between Sun and Earth?

Take 1-2 minutes for students to process this question and write a conclusion. I give them a sentence starter to help with the writing process, for example:  I learned that . . .because. . .  Take 1 minute to share answers with the class so students can hear other student thoughts. For a conclusion, some students wrote:

I learned that it takes the Sun 8 minutes to project light to Earth because they are super far apart from each other.

I learned that the model can help my understanding because it shows us that it is much father than we think.

I learned that the model helps me understand the distance because it gives me a realistic visualization in length between the Sun and Earth.