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SWBAT describe the relationship between mass, distance and gravity for objects in the solar system.

Big Idea

Using a variety of simulations and models, students come to understand the role of gravity as a governing force in the solar system.


This set of 10 lessons is designed to teach, reinforce, and challenge students while meeting the diverse needs of a variety of learning styles. A minimal amount of material is required for each lesson. Unless otherwise stated, a computer with Internet access and a science journal to record data and ideas are all that is needed. Some lessons include directions for  hands-on labs. Feel free to supplement these to fit your needs. 

If you are not yet using Google class or Google docs with your students these lessons are a great opportunity to explore the usefulness of  using Google Docs to collect student work and manage their learning.

Each lesson is divided into eight sections with an optional ninth extension section. A description of each section follows.

After a short Summary that includes the learning objectives for the lesson students begin with the first section titled Comprehension. Students read a short passage that gives them background information on the topic then answer a few questions about the reading. Visualization comes next. Students will watch a short video relevant to the topic followed by some summary questions. In Demonstration students engage with or watch a demonstration to help them begin to make connections with the content. 

With Exploration/Simulation students conduct a hands-on or virtual lab where they can manipulate variables and collect data. Organization is designed to review and reinforce key vocabulary and concepts. Students create a visual model with Illustration.

Next students respond to short answer prompts in the Reflection section. In Evaluation students are assessed on their knowledge of the topic. Each lesson concludes with Extension. These can be used as optional activities for students who finish early or may want additional practice.

I am in the process of developing additional sections. Calculation will be added next where students will be given different mathematical challenges related to the topic. Check back as I will add these in the future.

These lessons give you the flexibility of having students only complete the sections that you have the time for or feel are necessary. Each section reinforces the overall learning objective under study.

Getting Started

The setup for each of these lessons is follows a similar routine. I make the nine sections available in an online format. I use the Versal platform. Versal has both a free and Pro option ($50/yr) to meet your needs. The Pro option obviously has more features which are pretty great and are worth the small fee. If your school uses an LMS, you have the flexibility of linking the Versal lesson right into the platform. Directions can be found at the site. Along with Versal, each of my students has a Google account that are attached to my Google Classes. I set up class folders at the start of the year and have students submit assignments right to Google. This allows them to use Google docs and collaborate with their peers. I use this along with Schoology (our LMS) to manage students work. It has made management of my classes much smoother. 

Here's a direct link to the Earth in Space lessons.

Should you just want to proceed with the activities, I have created Gravity Student Answer Sheet and included them in the resource section below, however I really encourage you to explore the electronic options if possible. If you'd like to access my Versal classes, I would be happy to share them with you. In this regard you have the ability to flip this lesson and let students progress at their own pace. You can own your own version of the course and manage your own set of learners. To do so, I would need to invite you as a contributor and then you would be able to copy the gadgets in your course and then paste them into another course of your own. 

Step by step instructions:
1. You email me ( and I invite you as a contributor to the course
2. You accept the invite
3. You enter edit mode for the course
4. You copy and paste all gadgets in the course, lesson by lesson
5. You create a new course and enter edit mode in that new course
6. You paste each lesson's worth of gadgets into individual lessons you have created.

Here's a link to a video that shows you how to copy and paste gadgets.

These activities lend themselves to being supplements with hands on labs. For instance, in the second lesson, Lunar Phases, you could opt to include an all-class demonstration using a light source and ping pong balls and walk your students through the various phases. They can then complete the other sections on their own or with partners. This give you the flexibility to work with individual students as needed, even leaving out some of the sections if you deem them to be unnecessary or keep them in should a student need more reinforcement.

In the video below I introduce you to and talk about using

Part 1 (Comprehension - Visualization - Demonstration)

20 minutes


(Strategy Focus: Science Literacy: Use of informational texts relevant to student inquiries as part of the literacy development a) is inherently interesting to most students, b) motivates further reading, c) builds background knowledge (concept understanding and vocabulary) for future learning because it helps children learn about the world around them.)

What this looks like in my classroom: Students read the passage and answer the follow up questions. The passages is short and contains the relevant background information and details needed to proceed through the other sections. Follow up questions highlight the "need to know" content. 


(Strategy Focus: Content/Lecture Videos: Use of internet generated or teacher created videos a) allow students to follow along at their own pace, pause/play, rewind/fast forward, b) demonstrate a large variety of resources that exist on the Internet to help teach and provide examples of concepts and c) promote self exploration of additional resources. )

(Strategy Focus: In-Video Quizzes: In-video quizzes are a type of informal assessment that appears within lecture videos, typically after a key concept has been explained. In-video quizzes allow for lecture videos that are more interactive, dynamic, and personalized. In addition, these quizzes facilitate retrieval-based learning and enable students to test their understanding on the spot. Research shows that such interactivity plays a critical role of the efficacy of videos in e-learning environments (Zhang et al., 2006). In addition, research shows that even simple retrieval questions have significant pedagogical value. For example, in two papers in Science, (Karpicke & Roediger III, 2008Karpicke & Blunt, 2011) show that activities that require students to retrieve or reconstruct knowledge produces significant gains in learning - much more so than many other learning strategies.

What this looks like in my classroom:  Students watch a short video and answer quiz questions that follow. 


(Strategy Focus:  Science Demonstrations. Demonstrations have the potential to provide a beginning point for experiencing science, talking about experiences, proposing questions, suggesting patterns, and testing those questions and patterns; structuring these into a ritual with a specific content focus provides another structure for emotionally intense and cognitively focused interactions that support student learning. Demonstrations are used to capture the attention of the class and prepare them for the lesson that follows (questions about what they saw or what happened that leads into an Exploration). 

What this looks like in my classroom: Students complete or watch a hands-on demo, experiment, or virtual model that allows them to connect the information through application.  

Part 2 (Exploration/Simulation - Calculation - Organization - Illustration)

30 minutes


(Strategy Focus: Exploration. Exploration includes the skills required for developing and carrying out investigation. This includes planning and designing, using instruments to measure and record, collecting data, constructing, inventing and experimenting.) 

What this looks like in my classroom: Students manipulate equipment and materials to explore scientific models and theories.

(Strategy Focus: SimulationsSimulations can help students a) translate among multiple representations, b) build mental models of physical, chemical or biological systems, c) engage in hands-on, active learning experiences d) understand equations as physical relationships among measurements, e) collaborate on learning f) investigate phenomena that would not be possible to experience in a classroom or laboratory.)

What this looks like in my classroom: Working in pairs, students use computer based simulations to explore scientific models and theories. In this lesson, students use a Google slide to as a virtual workspace and arrange two vectors to indicate the direction of the Sun's gravity and the direction of Earth's inertia.  The image below is an example of a student's Google Slide model:



(Strategy Focus: Mathematical & Computational Thinking: Students are expected to use mathematics to represent physical variables and their relationships, and to make quantitative predictions along with using lab tools for observing, measuring, recording, and processing data.)

What this look lie in my classroom:  Students use basic algebraic expressions and formulas to scientific questions and problems. 

 In this lesson students calculate their weight on other planets in our Solar System.


(Strategy Focus: Reviewing. In this strategy students are going back over what they have done to pick out key points, make connections, and find relationships between key components. This allows them to identify further questions for investigation and consolidate their thinking.)

What this looks like in my classroom: Students work in lab or small groups to review key points and make connections between ideas.   


(Strategy Focus: Making Thinking Visible. Visible thinking strategies are a collection of approaches designed to help students communicate their understanding of concepts using a visual model. The focus can be on the "why" and/or the "how" of an issue concept or idea, main ideas organized and presented in a logical format, and/or connections between investigations and course material.) 

What this looks like in my classroom. The teacher may present a model for students to use or students may self select a model they are familiar with to create an illustration of their ideas.  

Part 3 (Reflection - Evaluation - Extension)

25 minutes


Strategy Focus: Reflecting. After performing a scientific inquiry, it's necessary for students to reflect upon the process, make links to key concepts, identify areas that are poorly understood or require clarification, and determining how this learning fits with their previously held beliefs.

What this looks like in my classroom:  Students work independently or as a group to determine the applications of the investigation, recognize connections between the investigation course material and examine the results of their investigation along with development of questions which could be addressed in future investigations. 


Strategy Focus: Assessment.  Students are assessed on the knowledge and skills  acquired over the course of the lesson. A variety of assessment tools can be used both formative and summative as well as project-based.

What this looks like in my classroom: Complete assessment task determined by the teacher  or proposed by the student and agreed upon by the teacher that demonstrates their understanding of the content being studied. 


Strategy Focus: Transfer of Learning.  Students are challenged to explore further questions that they have and extend their understanding.