Reflection: Real World Applications Part 2- The Structure of Our Solar System - Section 2: Engage/Explain/Explore


Scaling the Solar System

I found completing a scale model of the solar system was very effective in helping my students recognize the differences between the distances of each planet.  They were able to see just how close the inner planets were to each other and their distances from the sun and observe how the far the outer planets were in relation to the sun and each other.  I decided to focus on the distances between planets because many visual models and images in textbooks and online are not scaled which gives students a false sense of how the planets are aligned in space. This activity provided them a clear sense of just how far apart planets are and the appearance of the sun from a particular planet's point of view. 

Many of my students noted their astonishment of the distances of the the outer planets and how the sun was barely seen at all. They developed a better sense of why these outer planets are much colder than the inner planets as they noted how the sun's heat barely reached them; therefore, the temperatures on those planets could never really be warm.  I found my students were very motivated throughout this lesson. This hands on activity not only provided them with a realistic view of the planets distances, but being an active participant kept their interest in learning about this concept.

Next time I plan on incorporating scaled sizes of the planets and the distances after further research, I came across this pacing lesson, which I really liked and plan on using the next time I do this lesson. While it was very similar to the model I found, I liked on it had scaled models of planet sizes. This video really captured the scaled model of the solar system.  

I will share that you need a fairly large area distance wise for this kind of model to be done. We needed the length about two football fields, which we have on our school grounds.

  Creating a Scale Model
  Real World Applications: Creating a Scale Model
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Part 2- The Structure of Our Solar System

Unit 5: Out Of This World- A Journey Through Our Solar System
Lesson 2 of 11

Objective: SWBAT identify and sequence the sun and planets in our solar system.

Big Idea: Students will create a scale model of the solar system to distinguish the distances of each planet from the sun.

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