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Home > Earth and Space Science > Teaching Space Science- Soalr system
by Sara Kinyon, Tue Sep 06, 2011 4:31 PM
I've been reading A lot of posts and saw people adding ideas for teaching certain subjects. Last year I taught 5th grade and we did a lot with the solar system. I thought I would share a few ideas for anyone who is teaching it this year.
1. One VERY helpful thing we did was learn a song about out planets. After the students learned the song they added moves that related to the size of the planets. (5th grade standard) Here is the link for anyone who is interested. -- We used the 3rd song listed.
http://www.canteach.ca/elementary/songspoems34.html
2. Another thing we did in class to cover the orbits and their direction was an interactive lesson. I started with showing the students the accurate rotation and orbit buy using a globe and a cut out of the moon and sun. After, I split the students into groups and had someone be the sun, someone be the moon, and someone be Earth. They held up cut outs of what they were. Each student acted out the rotation and orbit of their object. The students loved this and the lesson seemed to stick with them.
3. A quick acronym for remember the planets in order is.
M- My
V- Very
E- Excellent
M- Mother
J- Just
S- Sent
U- Us
N- Nine
P- pizzas (depending if you are going to teach this)

Just some ideas, hope this helps!
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by Ricki Luster, Tue Sep 06, 2011 9:04 PM
Ricki Luster: Something that we do with our students is, we read the book Postcards From Pluto by Loreen Leedy. This is a follow up to our Earth/Space unit. Then the students are given postcard size index cards and have to create a post card from their given planet. If anyone is interested in the criteria, let me know. The fun part is that they get to mail them home to their families.
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by Arlene Jurewicz Leighton, Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:39 AM
Hey Sara and Ricki

Great ideas about how to work with 5th graders looking at planets in the solar system. Kids love to move and this gives them some sense of how the sun and planets move. They can't really tell from just observing the sky

Here is another way to remember our 8 planets
My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos

As of 2006 Pluto has been designated as a dwarf planet as is Ceres, the largest asteroid in the solar system asteroid belt and Eris which is in the Kuiper Belt.

Should we include dwarf planets while exploring the solar system with our upper elementary students ?
http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Dwarf

Arlene
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by Sara Kinyon, Wed Sep 07, 2011 1:47 PM
Arlene,
When I taught 5th last year I didn't include Pluto as one of the planets in our solar system but I did teach the students about it. I informed them that it used to be considered a planet and it had recently be reclassified. I let the students know that some websites and books may include it as a planet but as of right now it isn't. We had a great discussion about it and I figured it would clear the air for confusion.
Thanks for the website!
Sara
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by Carolyn Mohr, Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:11 PM
Sara, we need to share that website with all the song lyrics on the Science Songs discussion thread! Thank you.
Have you seen the great NASA eClips on the solar system. This is one of my favorites:
Our World: What Is the Solar System? Go to the k-5 Our World section and look for the video clip called "What Is The Solar System?".
Carolyn
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by Ricki Luster, Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:51 AM
Ricki Luster: We also explain how Pluto has been reclassified as a Dwarf Planet, however the book, I mentioned has always thrilled my students through the years. Although it is called Postcards From Pluto, the other 8 planents are mentioned too. If a student wants to send a postcard from Pluto, they have to note that it is the dwarf planet Pluto. I love all of your suggestions. Thank you for sharing!
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by Sharon Chern, Thu Sep 08, 2011 4:36 AM
Hi Sara,
Thank you for posting the link to the solar system songs! Even though I teach at the high school level, the students really get into singing and being silly while learning at the same time. I've never heard of the MVEMJSUN(P) acronym either so thank you!
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by Denise Low, Thu Sep 08, 2011 1:47 PM
These are excellent ideas. We do the mnemonic devices too where the students need to make up their own for the order of the planets. They love this and it relates to them because they make it.
This is my second year teaching 5th grade and it is easier than last year. We begin with the moon phases and teach the kids the different phases. I found a cool power point presentation on line. It is a good way to introduce them. Then we do interactive activities with foam balls on chop sticks and a big head lamp to show the phases. I turn the lights off in the classroom and then children rotate around the lamp.
There was a neat neat activity if you google Moon phases using oreo cookies. (just be careful of the students who have allergies). The children really enjoyed it. They have to be a phase of the moon and I Put them in groups and they order them. They have to come up with a story of how they think the moon phases began. This ties in Language Arts. At our school we are focusing on students being able to comprehend what they read and this is a good way to tie in Langauge arts. They are suppose to be writing 50% of the day. What a better way than to incorporate it in science. We then lead all of this up to a Star Party night where we have astronomers bring telescopes to observe the night sky and do a presentation in our library. At our school we have Safari Montage and Discovery Education. These resources have a lot of great videos on Space, the moon, the planets.
I also had the students break up into groups and persuade me to make their planet my favorite with fun facts and interesting thoughts. We had fun. My favorite planet from this school year: Mercury! Way to go students. Thanks for letting me share.
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by Judy Okazaki, Sat Sep 10, 2011 1:57 AM
Thank you for the resources! I definitely will be using the songs, videos, and books. I will also include an attention grabber video from They Might Be giants, "How Many Planets," http://vimeo.com/5377648. My students love this music group. The video is on the fluff side of science and included Pluto as a planet but it keeps the students attention on Science (solar system) because they like to watch it over and over on their own. Another song that I just discovered is from flocabulary.com. I had bought a World History version 2 years ago from Scholastic book clubs. My students loved the rap songs. Even the ESL kids memorized the songs. Flocabulary has a "Confessions of a Planet" rap that I know the students will like. You do have to pay for use on the site but they offer a trail version with a free sample lesson about the planets.
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by Nichole Montague, Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:37 AM
I have been teaching 9 years, but have never taught Space Science. I don't even know where to begin. I loved many of the ideas posted - thank you everyone for sharing. Sara - I really like the song ideas. Carolyn thank you so much for posting NASA's eclips sight - there are some amazing, kid friendly resources I will definately be using.
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by Andrea Godsill, Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:22 AM
Denise,
Thanks for the information on using Oreos to teach the phases of the moon. What a great idea. I've never thought of that and can see that they will be a great teaching tool for me. Thanks for sharing!
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by Sharon Chern, Wed Sep 14, 2011 4:44 AM
Does anyone know of a good computer simulation/demo (preferably interactive) of the phases of the moon & position of the sun, TOGETHER with the rise and fall of tides around the earth?
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by Arlene Jurewicz Leighton, Wed Sep 14, 2011 9:50 AM
Hi Sharon,

Can you tell us a bit more about what grade level you teach? The geometries of the sun earth moon system are pretty complex and it is a great idea to find simulations showing these which are interactive.

Some well vetted resources on astronomy for middle school can be found at the PRISMS website

http://prisms.mmsa.org/browse.php?cat=1

I have not come across interactive simulations on tides.

My best, Arlene JL
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by Arlene Jurewicz Leighton, Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:01 AM
Hi Sharon,

This is a great collection of resources from the NSTA Learning Center about the Sun Earth Moon System
It is for middle level

http://learningcenter.nsta.org/share.aspx?id=kt4ZLrHskO

Arlene JL
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by Megan Dehning, Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:31 PM
I have done astronomy workshops with a couple of folks from the CAPER team (University of Wyoming). Attached is a very fun and interactive solsr system ballet - could really be modified for grades 1-8.

Also found a "worlds in comparison" activity involving playdough or modeling clay. Students first create what they think the relative sizes would be, then there is a formula for creating the true relative sizes. students are always amazed at how big jupiter and saturn are and how small uranus, neptune, and pluto are.

The 3rd document is a solar system hike/walk. where they walk the relative distances between the planets.

all 3 are nice to get kids moving and engaged.
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by Megan Dehning, Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:34 PM
They might be giants has a great collection of science songs - check out "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas" and "The sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma" on you tube. My middle school kids LOVE these.
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by Judy Okazaki, Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:59 PM
If you have a discovery education subscription, there is a video simulation about the tides. However, the moon phases is not obvious, it's implied in the video.
tides animation
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by Katherine Tierney, Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:39 PM
Denise,
Just like Andrea, I too really appreciate the oreo activity for phases of the moon, especially if I get to eat the leftovers. I will be teaching the moon phases next quarter. I know Sara shared the planet song, and I found this very helpful. There is a website Flocabulary.com that has hip hop songs for all subjects areas. They have one for the planets. I used this in my class and the students really enjoyed it. The actual song is pretty long, but I broke it into parts. It motivated the students. I even had students create their own short raps about the planets and share with the class. Even though those students are in 6th grade they will visit and they still remember their raps.
Katie
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by Katherine Tierney, Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:43 PM
Megan,
Thanks for all the attachments. They look like great activities to try out.
Katie
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by Tara Soleta, Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:48 AM
Hi All,
I found a fun interactive game that supports student's knowledge of the phases of the moon called Moonlight Madness. This site also has many activites such as; mobiles, moon journals and photographs that you could easily implement.

The Moonlight Madness game gives names and descriptions of the moon phases. The player is directed to match the eight phases to the photographs and then number the phases as they are seen from earth. This game can be used as a teaching tool, an assessment or even a center activity!

www.ehow.com/way_5482039_phases-moon-activities-kids.html
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by Sara Kinyon, Thu Nov 10, 2011 2:49 PM
Tara,
Thanks for the great ideas and resources. I'm starting to teach the basic movments of the moon today and can probably adapt some of those lessons to meet my standard! :)
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by Judy Okazaki, Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:15 PM
I came across this moon video rap:
http://www.schooltube.com/video/bf0e5ada3fb0ea880ecb/Phases-of-the-Moon-a-kids-funky-version. I liked how the video had a side video showing the moon orbit around the earth and labeling the phases of the moon.
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by Katherine Tierney, Fri Nov 11, 2011 3:11 PM
I love teaching about the solar system because there is so much information avaiable and the students are motivated to learn. One problem I have is that the standards are very specific but there is so much you need to teach for students to understand the standards and for there to be a comprehensive unit on the solar system. Hearing what everyone else is teaching has been very helpful.
An activity I did in the past was writing postcards from the milkway galaxy. Here students combined writing, computer science and science standards. the students had to research about an object in space and write interesting facts. They then had to write a posctard to someone they knew pretending it was coming from space and they had to include facts about the objects and create the postcard on kidbiz. They included a picture they drew. I had done this activity before, but this time I had them write to another person in the class and they had to respond to each other and continue to correspondence so they were like a teacher. We then added the postcards to a chart so that the whole class could read them and the students shared out their work with the whole class.
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by Liamarie Thomas, Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:04 PM
Hi Tara~

In talking about the phases of the moon, here is somehting ive been doing with my class. I purchased a tidal calendar that shows exactly what kind of moon will be coming on exactly what day. We have been tallying how many reminders they recieve about focusing and staying on task. We noticed that about 1 week or so before a full moon comes, that is when the class and individual students need more reminders. We have also talked to fishermen and they live by the tidl calendar. They know exactly when certain types of fish will be swimming and when to go or not to go fishing. Amazing! Whats great it that the students can actually see and experience how the phases of the moon can affect their daily lives. Let me know if you and your class try it what you learned.
Have fun!

Aloha,
Lia
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by Lorrie Armfield, Wed Dec 07, 2011 2:45 PM
The following is a list of NASA Resources (external web sites) selected by my school district . Hope they help, as they have been a tremendous asset for me as I engage in a ‘flipped classroom’. My scholars have viewed the sites, completed cornell notes from the information presented; conducted investigations, completed a webquest, and taught one another about various topics relating to Astronomy (Seasons, Phases of the Moon, Eclipses, Tides, The Universe: Star Systems and Galaxies).

Earth in Motion- Seasons
http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/documents/curriculum-resources/seasons3.9.swf
Sun and Seasons Online Activity enhances your class' study of the "reasons for the seasons". You will need the Macromedia Flash Player to do the activity, which only works in Internet Explorer.


Telling Time by the Light of the Moon
http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/15/ERNASA10_0004
This activity allows students/learners to understand that local solar time is determined by the position of the sun relative to an observer’s horizon. It also allows students/learners to identify, by name, the phases of the moon and define elongation as the measurement of angular distance (in degrees) between a line of sight from an observer on Earth to the sun and a line of sight to any other celestial object. Topics include: lunar phases, telling time with phases of the moon, and elongation.

Windows to the Universe: Our Solar System
http://www.windows2universe.org/our_solar_system/solar_system.html
Visit links to the Sun, and visit the planets and other small bodies in the Solar System. Find out about solar system formation, and facts about the bodies in the solar system. See news highlights, and archives of images of the Sun, planets, comets, and asteroids. Topics: planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars.

Lorrie
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by Kelly Amendola, Thu Dec 08, 2011 6:54 PM
Thank you everyone for those resources, it is going to make my space unit a lot easier for me and my students. They know how excited I am about this unit so they too are really excited to learn more about the earth and solar system.

Thank you again!
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by Cheska Lorena, Mon Dec 26, 2011 7:40 PM
Thanks Kelly for bringing up this post, and for everyone who shared resources. There are many great ideas, materials, and resources posted in the replies. I am excited about the Space unit, and this thread has helped me find some great activities for my planning.

Ricki-- can you post or email me more details about your Postcards From Pluto activity? I plan to use more reading and writing, and this sounds like a great idea.

Finding songs to help teach science concepts is tricky for me. I previously used School House Rock, Magic School Bus, and anything with nursery rhyme tunes which backfired. I teach inner-city girls and if it wasn't in rap form or sung by TMBG or Mr. Lee on Youtube, they'll say it's too childish or corny... which in retrospect, I suppose SHR or MSB is true! Breaks my heart though because I loved SHR and MSB growing up, haha.

Some other thoughts I had while reading through the posts and checking out the links... one of the things I like to do for warm-up or brain-starters is have students free-write. NASA has a great image of the day gallery (http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/); I plan to show the images for a few days during our space unit and use them as writing prompts. Creative student-written stories about how the sun and planets formed, or student research on cultural stories that tried to explain the moon phases and planets might also be an interesting idea to try. Any teaching ideas or resources on helping teach writing in science?
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by Brandy Stewart, Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:43 PM
For the solar system instruction, I love the program "Starry Night" - if anyone has ever heard of it. I was first introduced to this at the last NSTA conference in Baltimore. I fell in love! I use the Middle School version to teach my 5th and 6th graders, and you wouldn't believe the experiments and activities there are both hands on and on the computer to nail down learning about the solar system and the universe. I particularly like the activity where you make a comet out of dry ice and the activity where you do a distance between planets activity using footsteps and a very large field.
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by Helen Hicks, Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:26 PM
Thank you everyone for all your great resources. I going to start teaching the solar system at the end of this month to my fifth grade students and it's really hard to decide where to start with all the information and different ways to go about teaching the solar system. The most simple to me is to first start with showing and explaining all the planets even Pluto and why it is not a planet anymore. Sara, gave a bunch of great solar system songs I know my students will enjoy learning, singing and dancing too and in turn it will hopeful help them learn the solar system better. I let you guys know how my first few lessons go.
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by Nichole Montague, Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:49 PM
I did a 6th grade Space Science Lesson this month even though we don't have any specific Space Science Benchmarks. I linked the space science content to our technology benchmarks and the Physical Science benchmark about waves - and in this case Electromagnetic Waves. We learned how scientists use the EM spectrum to study space and the different types of telescopes they employ to do this. There is also a great online interactive resource called "Star Light, Star Bright" that my students really enjoyed exploring and learning more about space and the EM spectrum. NASA also has excellent photos that show different stars/planets/etc. taken from telescopes using various waves.
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by Dawn Nishimoto, Mon Jan 23, 2012 9:25 PM
http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/eds/

This is a great online resource to check out.
I especially like the pictures and facts link. The pictures are amazing! You are able to print the PDF or view them on a computer or SMART board.
For example, if you click on Comet Halley...
The Fast Facts include: the comet's age, location, average distance from the Sun, diameter, mass, orbital period around the Sun, and distinguishing features. A picture of the comet is included.
There is a section that gives you ideas for classroom activities, assignments, or projects.
For example:
-Find information about the Comet Halley.
-Recognize and order large numbers. Students arrange the Sun, planets, comets, and asteroids from smallest to largest mass and/or diameter.
-Compare asteroids to comets. Have students construct a graphic organizer comparing the features of the asteroids with those of comets.

The site also provides teaching tools that can link you to online exploration sites, interactive games, science content reading materials, and more.
Check it out if you have a chance.
Thanks for sharing resources!
Dawn
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by Deanna Spain, Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:36 PM
Wow thank you all for the wonderful ideas! I am hoping to adpat many of these ideas to teach to my Kindergartners. I usually read Papa, Please Get the Moon for me - by Eric Carle. I have also read Happy Birthday Moon - by Frank Asch. These are excellent books for teaching my students about the moon and the phases.

I am definitely excited about trying the oreo cookies with my class. They would definitely get a kick out of that lesson. Since I'm from Hawaii, I've also taught the Hawaiian words for the basic moon phases. For example, a crescent moon would be called Hoaka and a full moon is called Hoku.
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by Cheri Alonzo, Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:00 AM
Hi Sarah - I love your ideas! I try to add in music/song when I can. I found a rap song for learning about convection, conduction and radiation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y3mfAGVn1c

I also liked your interactive lesson - get the students moving. I teach sped and really have to work at creating engaging lessons. Many of the concepts are difficult, but I think acting out, music etc. really help them to understand,
Thank you for sharing. cheri
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by Cheri Alonzo, Sun Jan 29, 2012 5:00 AM
Hi Sarah - I love your ideas! I try to add in music/song when I can. I found a rap song for learning about convection, conduction and radiation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y3mfAGVn1c

I also liked your interactive lesson - get the students moving. I teach sped and really have to work at creating engaging lessons. Many of the concepts are difficult, but I think acting out, music etc. really help them to understand,
Thank you for sharing. cheri
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by Christy Briner, Wed Feb 01, 2012 8:05 PM
I just want to say thanks for all the ideas that were put up. Right now I am going to school to become a teacher. Many of these ideas are so helpful. I would have never thought of them. It is nice to know that other teachers are willing to share their ideas.
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by Eryn Manning, Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:54 PM
Judy-
Thank you so much for posting the video of the phases of the moon rap! It it such a fun perspective on the moon and kids love those kinds of things! I'm definitely going to use this!
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by Chris Richardson, Thu Feb 02, 2012 11:25 AM
I would like to suggest a fun way that the solar system is taught to students in 4th, 5th, or 6th grade. I love this topic and I think that this is going to be a great and fun opportunity for your students to learn about something that kids that age find interesting. I would like to recommend an article titled "Take a Planet Walk" by Dwight Schulter. The planet walk is a great opportunity for students to learn about the solar system by constructing it outside. It is a simple, yet challenging experience that, I believe, will allow students to develop a more respected interest in this topic. Distance, temperature, and other phenomena, such as moons, the sun, and rotation can also be explored by the students.
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by Andrea Medrano, Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:37 PM
What great resources! Thank Megan :-) good to see you.
Does anyone have an activity that I can use to tie in weather patterns from the tilt of Earth's axis? Its benchmark 8.8.3 and I feel I am stretching with using only weather related vocabulary.
Thanks!
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by Shahinaz Nassar, Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:15 PM
Thank you for sharing all those wonderful ideas. I am a 4th grade teacher and I will be teaching the solar system in March, so I am trying to gather as many ideas as I can as my students this year are very active and need hands on activities. They are also visual and artistic, so I will be incorporating a lot of videos and art. I highly recommend Discovery Education. They have great videos as well as virtual labs. Kids enjoy watching the videos. As we are watching the video, I pause for open discussion and at the same time I allow kids to take notes; and as their exit pass, they need to tell me 3 facts that they learned from the video. I will also try to incorporate art where they can choose a planet, draw it, and write about it. I like the postcard idea, so I might try it out this year. Thanks for sharing! I can't wait to try out some of your ideas!
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by Shelley Bernardelli, Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:27 PM
Great ideas that I will incorporate into my lessons. Thanks for sharing.
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by Alayna Maldonado, Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:34 AM
I have been teaching 3rd grade for a few years and one concept we teach are the moon phases. I like the inquiry activity from our Harcourt Science text that requires a flashlight, chair, and a volleyball. One student acts as the moon and holds the ball. Another student holds the flashlight, stands in different spots, and shines the light on the ball to re-create the different phases of the moon. This allows the students to see firsthand the light and movements involved in moon phases and helps them to remember the names of the phases.
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by Tomonori Hayamichi, Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:18 PM
I have recently got transferred to middle school from high school and have to teach space science for 8th graders. I do not have very strong content background and never taught in this subject.
I came across information and NSTA PD class since I have been wondering what would arose middle students curiosity and get them interested in the subject.
I have found the NSTA SciPack is an excellent resource for me to get familiarized with space science contents since I started one of space science SciPack. It gave me an overview of topic by subtopics and hints of how I give students relevancy of learning space science.
It is very interesting to read this post that I found many integration of activity to get students attracted to the subject such as songs, hip-hop, raps, games using foods and many.
Thank you for those who contributed to this post. I had an eye-opening moment while reading this forum.
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by Nathan Reyes Oda, Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:58 PM
Andrea,

Regarding your question on tilt of earths axis relating to weather. You could start off with how the tilt of earths axis is related to the seasons then progress to how the weather changes with the seasons.

Thanks,
Nate
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by Stacy Holland, Tue Feb 07, 2012 9:17 PM
A fun lesson we complete is a model of the solar system using adding machine tape. Every student starts with a 2.5 meter strip of tape and we pick one end to be the sun (14 cm) and then we mark on a scaled version the distances of the planets, asteroid belt, dwarf planets and comets beyond Pluto. The students then calculate the diameter of the planets (mm) and draw, color and label them. We hang the tapes in the hallway and compare the limitations and advantages of using a model. Let me know if you want a copy of the instructions.
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by Andrea Medrano, Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:33 PM
Thanks Nathan,
That is what I am going to do, its just that the reason for the seasons and tilt we did cover already. I guess review is always good.
Andrea
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by Juliet Kim, Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:56 PM
I teach fifth grade and one concept that they need to understand is just how vast the distances between major objects in our solar system are. To teach this concept, I had my students make a scaled solar system on a string. They first colored and cut out scaled planets. We decided that every 100,000 miles would equal one centimeter of string. After calculating all the distances, the students worked in groups of four to place their planets in the appropriate spot on their string. They then went outside and stretched out their "solar systems". I think this activity really helped them see how enormous our solar system is and how small the planets and objects are relative to the size of the solar system.
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by Tomonori Hayamichi, Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:01 PM
Sharon,
These are the sites that I have used in my class. You can prepare the worksheet for the simulation below if you feel comfortable to use them in class.
This site would be useful to explain the class though projector.
http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/labs/moon/lunar_phase3.swf

This site would help students understand how moon phases occur in relation to the positions of earth, moon, and the sun. They can check the moon phases at different positions bu controlling animations as many times as they need.
http://astro.unl.edu/naap/lps/animations/lps.swf

You could more sites if you use keyword search in moon, phase, and simulation.
I hope it would help you.
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by Susan Rush, Sun Feb 19, 2012 12:17 PM
The acronym never worked for my understanding. It was just easier to remember the planet names but other students I've worked with like it. I think also with some children with learning disabilities processing the phrase to connect with the planets can be confusing and counterproductive. But I guess this is where good teachers know their students and their learning style! =)
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by Shahinaz Nassar, Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:11 PM
Aloha,
Wow, there are so many great ideas. I also wanted to share a couple of hands on activities that I plan to use in my lessons. I think they are great especially for the kinesthetic learners. I came across them while reading Earth, Sun and Moon scipack. One of them allows you to use data to plot the Moon’s Orbit: Plotting the Moon Activity (I am attaching the file)
The other one is about A Scale Model of the Earth-Moon System:
Use fruits and vegetables such as oranges, peas, and grapes to make a scale model of the Earth-Moon system. Choose your Earth first and place it in the middle of a table. Since the Moon’s diameter is about 1/4th the diameter of Earth, find another fruit or vegetable that represents the Moon to that scale in your model. Measure the diameter of your model Earth. To complete your model, position the Moon at an orbital distance equal to 30 Earth diameters. If possible, have another person hold Earth stationary while you walk around Earth with your model Moon for one complete revolution—one month of model time.

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by Tina Harris, Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:40 PM
I noticed that there are some teachers of middle school students. When I taught the solar system in 8th grade it was before state standards and my students came to me with different backgrounds in this topic, some had studied it almost every year and some had no experience at all. To deal with that, I broke my classes up into 10 groups, one for the planets that existed at that time (yes, that long ago!) and the Sun. I had a vertical file of NASA fliers I had picked up at NSTA conferences, books from clearance racks at books stores or checked out from the library, and the computers and I set it up so that they rotated through all the resources to collect information.

Their job was to research their planet/star and the class brainstormed what kinds of information they wanted to learn (climate, atmosphere, distance from sun, moons, size, etc.). They were then to design a lesson to teach the class with graphics and data. They were also to design a quiz to test the class after their presentation on the information they presented. The class was to take notes on a form I gave them (for organization more than any other reason) and to grade the presenters - did they present all the information the class had asked for? was it interesting? did they learn anything?

when they were done, we took the "best of the best" and made a CD for them to keep and donated a copy to a class at one of the feeder elementary schools. So I guess I didn't "teach" the solar system, I let my students do that while I helped. It was actually a lot of fun and they got extra points for creativity. The only problem was keeping them on task on the presentation program so they were putting in information instead of playing with its features and that was a small problem. When classes were not taking notes like they were supposed to, I gave them a quiz of my own over all the planets and they still did better than when I "taught" it after the presenations - they listen better to each other and I made a point of telling them they were guest teachers those days.
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by Susan Lee, Wed Feb 22, 2012 10:46 PM
I recently wrote a review for the article Scope on the Skies: And then there were eight" and they have a standby mnemonic " My Very Entertaining Mother Just Served Us Noodles" so students can learn the planets without Pluto. This I found entertaining, because this recent change is still strange for me since I grew up with " My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us the Nine Planets" that I technically cannot teach now. Thanks for sharing new ways to teach about Pluto's entrance as a Dwarf Planet. I can't imagine teaching my students about the planets without Pluto, so now I have so many great ideas!
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by Loren Nomura, Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:52 PM
I had the privilege of going to Washington DC last summer and happened to notice the solar system model that they used around the national mall. Here's an article about it along with pictures.

http://irregulartimes.com/index.php/archives/2011/03/20/walk...onal-mall/

What's interesting is it shows you the relative distance of the planets compared to the sun. If you notice the first four planets are all very close together (Mercury through Mars), and then the distances of the planets around the national mall get even farther away exponentially. I think adapting this to a class environment might be useful especially since many students like to go outside, plus it might give them perspective on just how big our solar system is.

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by Garth Rehberg, Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:19 PM
Thank you for the overview of your lesson. I am an aspiring teacher and I am constructing a unit plan. I will definitely use the some of the concepts of using cut outs and having the students demonstrate the orbit of the planets. Once again, thank you!!!
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by Garth Rehberg, Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:19 PM
Thank you for the overview of your lesson. I am an aspiring teacher and I am constructing a unit plan. I will definitely use the some of the concepts of using cut outs and having the students demonstrate the orbit of the planets. Once again, thank you!!!
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by Susan Rush, Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:16 PM
Thank you for the link, Loren! That's really neat. We just watched the Bill Nye planet model but seeing something in DC that is more tangible is nice.
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by Jacqueline Nuha, Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:26 PM
I feel like I hit the jackpot with this post. There are so many great ideas and activities that will be useful when I start teaching the solar system and its many avenues next quarter. Thank you for all of your contributions. I thought the SciPack was awesome as it is, but with these added resources, the unit will be complete.

There was another posting about scaling the solar system accurately, and I find that this has a nice tie into math through measurement conversion. Being able to convert measurements is one of the standards that 5th grade needs to hit, so I appreciate being able to integrate the two subjects.

I had a question about the songs. Is there a particular beat that goes for each song? For example, one song might go to the beat of Mary Had a Little Lamb. This is another way for me to weave in music, since I have to teach music in my classroom.

Again, thank you for all of the amazing resources you have shared, my students and I will have a blast learning about the solar system.
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by Juliet Kim, Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:59 PM
http://www.notdoppler.com/thescaleoftheuniverse2.php

This is an awesome link that I came across. It's hard to describe just how vast the distances between objects are in space and how astronomically large objects are. It's hard for me to grasp it sometimes. However, I showed this animation to my 5th graders to help show just how vast and large objects in our universe are. After the lesson, many students asked me for the URL so that they could check it out when they got home. You should definitely check it out. I think you'll be playing around with it for a really long time!
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by Cheri Alonzo, Sat Mar 03, 2012 12:21 AM
Hi Juliet - Thank you so much for posting your link. It is great. We follow the cycle of instruction which includes an "anticipatory set". We are just getting into Space, as we just completed exploring space technology. This site will be great to use for the anti set to introduce space. I know what you mean about describing vast distances - I have a hard time to imagine it all. I am excited because I know my 8th graders will really like this animation. They are visual learners and have short attention spans. This will be perfect to get their attention and keep it for a little while! Thank you again :)
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by Andrea Medrano, Sat Mar 03, 2012 1:23 AM
One of the hardest things is for students to really apply the distance in space. I have a planet walk that we do, where the students make and hold up the representative planet on scale with where they are from the Sun (by relative distance). The first time was several years ago and the biggest challenge was how far Pluto was, I am glad to have it be excluded for this activity as the students would end up too far to hear me!
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by Tomonori Hayamichi, Sat Mar 03, 2012 7:48 PM
Hi all,
Thank you for all your contribution to this thread. I have enjoy reading the postings so much and benefited.
One of my challenges to teach science is letting my students overcome misconceptions on science. The cause of seasons is one of the common misconceptions in space science I face in classroom in space. Many students think the distance between earth and the sun causes seasons. Earth gets closer to the sun in summer and farther in winter. They are having a hard time to realize that the tilt of earth is true cause.
Does anyone have any good ideas and experiences to teach the students the causes of season?
I would prefer to do any doable hands-on activities with obtainable material and obtains precise data.
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by Alyce Dalzell, Sun Mar 04, 2012 10:42 PM
Hello,
There is so much energy being emitted from the participants of this thread discussion! I am adding to the fun by sharing some outstanding NASA External Resources.

NASA's resources provide simulations, interactives, additional links, lesson ideas, images, real-time data, podcasts and video clips! If you have not "registered" on NASA's Educator Site you will be happy to know that it is free. NASA has directed a lot of energy and passion into developing their educational resources.

If you teach high school Space Science classes check out Cosmic Survey: What are your ideas about the Universe? How big? How far? How old?

The NASA external resource All Planet Sizes illustrates the scale of our solar system.

What is Your Cosmic Connection to the Elements? is one of my favorite sites and activities. If you also have a passion for chemistry, this site will be a double plus. Information and engaging classroom activities covering topics that include the cosmic origin of elements that are located throughout space are highlighted. MS/HS level.

Enjoy and please share your adaptations and discoveries! Alyce
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by Dawn Nishimoto, Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:19 PM
I am planning on doing a lesson on moon phases and love the oreo idea! I looked through the power point shared by Denise and will also try to incorporate that in my unit. (Thanks Denise!) My lesson will also include the activity using foam balls and a lamp. I got my lesson ideas from Picture-Perfect Science Lessons published by the NSTApress. The science unit is called The Changing Moon. The three picture books in this lesson are: Rise the Moon by Eileen Spinelli, The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons, and Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle. Part of the lesson includes a Moon Journal were students make daily observations of the moon. I was planning on having them start this over spring break but the weather has been so bad I’m not sure the moon will be out with all the rain and clouds.
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by Barbara Brothers, Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:25 PM

Here's a website you might like that has 3 interactive lessons on the phases of the moon, exercises to complete and then a summary afterward.

www.bigkidscience.com/MoonPhases/MoonPhases.html

Sincerely,
Barbara
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by Susan Lee, Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:13 AM
A song is a great way for kids to learn! Thanks for that song. Also, since Pluto isn't a planet anymore there's a new verse : My Very Entertaining Mother Just Served Us Noodles. But of course, I will always learn and teach it with My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us the Nine Planets.
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by Tomonori Hayamichi, Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:43 AM
Hi all,
One of challenges many of my students have is to comprehend why lunar and solar eclipses does not occur once a month if the moon rotates once around the earth. Students need to consider earth is rotating relative to the sun and moon relative to earth. This make their understanding difficult. Does anyone have good demonstration and/ or hands-on activity to break the misconceptions.
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by Shahinaz Nassar, Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:49 PM
While browsing through the different SciGuides, I came across some great resources about the moon, sun, planets, mars in particular, and the solar system in general. I plan to use some of the websites and I also plan to have the kids research topics about the moon and seasons using others. I teach 4th grade and last week I had my kids brainstorm and complete a KWL chart. Of course, we only completed the K & W. I couldn't believe that it took us about the whole block to complete this. I ended up typing their questions and their ideas, comments/statements. They kept on asking me questions, but I refused to answer them. Instead I explained to them that I wanted them to investigate and research and find out the answers for themselves. This seems to elevate their curiosity and interest. I will be taking to them computer lab next week and of course direct them to certain website to research. I can't wait to see the outcome. Some of the cool websites that I came across are:
http:/starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/solar_system_level1/solar_system.html
http://www.exploremarsnow.org/
http://sciencenationalgeographic.com/science/space/solar-system/
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by Patricia Rourke, Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:51 PM
For those who do models of the solar system, teachers enjoy using this information and creating scale models, both in distance from the sun and in relative diameter of the planet. NASA's nine planets site is chock full of wonderful ideas and students can print actual photos of the planets to use either as their postcards, or to hold them up in the model simulation.

Here are some items that may be used for visual information on relative sizes of the planets in the solar system as compared to the diameter of the sun. Information on the sun and the planets is provided from the NinePlanets site: for example http://nineplanets.org/mercury.html


Sun-any ball, diameter 8.00 inches (a bowling ball)
Mercury-a pinhead, diameter 0.03 inch
Venus-a peppercorn, diameter 0.08 inch
Earth-a second peppercorn
Mars-a second pinhead
Jupiter-a chestnut or a pecan, diameter 0.90 inch
Saturn-a hazelnut or an acorn, diameter 0.70 inch
Uranus-a peanut or coffee bean, diameter 0.30 inch
Neptune-a second peanut or coffee bean
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by Patricia Rourke, Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:53 PM
Here's the home page for the Nine Planets web site

http://nineplanets.org/

~patty
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by Jacqueline Nuha, Sun Apr 01, 2012 4:37 AM

I found some sites that may help with a Space Unit:

This site show the Orbital Distance (a=AUs), Orbital Period (P=years), Orbital Eccentricity (e), Orbital Inclination (i=degrees), Mass (Earths), Diameter (Earths), Mean Density. It's a nice way to show how the planets orbit and the continuous patterns of each planet. Also, if you click on a particular planet/dwarf planet or the sun it will lead you to an informational page.

http://www.solstation.com/orbits/solarsys.htm

This next site is similar to the first, but it is more appropriate for elementary students.

http://www.kidsastronomy.com/solar_system.htm

Another Solar System Viewer, but it dates back to where the planets were from 2000 to the present. You can pause it at any moment and look at patterns.

http://janus.astro.umd.edu/javadir/orbits/ssv.html

This site is a 3D Solar System Simulator. You do need a plug-in to run it.

http://www.forgefx.com/casestudies/prenticehall/ph/solar_system/solarsystem.htm


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by Linda Smith, Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:05 AM
Such great ideas! Thank you everyone for sharing!

I made a PowerPoint that I've used with students from 1st to 6th grade.
We convert the distances between the planets to a walk-able length. My bigger guys actually do the math. All students use a couple of meter sticks and walk out the distance. I have one student stand where each planet would be, holding a copy of the slide with the picture of their planet on it. Then I take the rest of the class back to the beginning (where the Sun stands) and let them look down the street to where Pluto would be. I have the students picture that space in their mind, and then remind them that that is just one direction. The solar system goes out that far behind you and to both sides also.

It kind of helps with the scale thing, and when you've measured out that many meter sticks of length students start to get the idea of how the metric system works.

I'm attaching the PowerPoint. Of course, this is just my opinion and something I pulled together from several sources, but it is another way to explain a difficult concept, and the more of those we can share the better we'll be able to create those concept pictures in our students's minds.

PS... you probably need to do this outside. The halls aren't long enough, at least not in my school. ;)
Linda
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by Cheri Alonzo, Sun Apr 01, 2012 4:29 PM
Thank you Jacqueline and Patty for your great ideas for the Solar System. There are so many great videos, sites etc. etc. it is overwhelming! I appreciate the list of items representative of the planets and sizes My students will be doing a poster and this list will help them to determine the size of each planet in relation to each other.

Discovery Ed has some great videos, as well as NASA, which has everything!

Thank you again for sharing ideas.
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by Andrea Medrano, Sat Apr 07, 2012 1:14 PM
I just placed a model of the inner and outer planets with the sun up in my room. We are starting presentations and I wanted to set the mood.
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by Shawna Fischer, Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:13 PM
For all the Hawaii teachers out there, here is a link to the Hawaiian moon phases.

http://www.imiloahawaii.org/57/

My third graders just had some high schoolers come in and teach them the Hawaiian moon phases using chants and clapping after we learned about it in science. This site has an interactive Hawaiian moon phase chart that tells which days are good for planting and fishing based on the moon. It is a good way to integrate social studies with science.
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by Barbara Brothers, Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:18 AM

Thanks for the Hawaii moon interactive site. In addition to learning the phases of the moon, it could be a wonderful part of cultural/community studies of the sky, and could extend earth studies discussing how people came to fish or plant when they do etc...great for research projects too.

Thank you for the resource.
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by Barbara Brothers, Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:25 AM
Thanks for the www.exploremarsnow.org website.
It will be great for our astronomers' club!
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by Tomonori Hayamichi, Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:51 PM
I just want to reflect on ongoing lesson on the moon phases. I wonder anybody is doing the same topic and want to hear from you how well it is going in your class.
I adapted quite a few resources for the moon phases lesson plan contributed by participants of this site. I have been working on the one month long moon phase project. I combine two plans combined at the same time and one modeling activity, moon observation, the orbit of the moon, and foam ball activity
The students are to observe the moon every night and record the moon phases with time, date and direction in the sky, report it back the next day to the class. They are getting aware of gradual changes of phases as they observe it every night and come to think how the moon phase changes.
I adapted the lesson, "Track the Moon," posted in this thread. Planing the moon phase lesson, it is necessary to check the locations of the moon relative to those of the earth and the sun so that the students comprehend the relationship of the phase of moon and its location relative to the earth and the sun.
I also adopted another lesson plan to visualize the moon phases by using a foam ball and an electric lamp. This short activity made the students realized clearly that the reflection of sunlight on the moon surface and its relative positions cause the moon phases.
Does anyone have any good ideas to explain as I haven't explained why the lunar/solar eclipses do not occur every month?

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by Shahinaz Nassar, Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:30 PM
Well, I am currently teaching my students about the relationship between Earth and Moon. There are many resources! However, I had them brainstorm and complete a KWL chart. They came up with great questions and lots of misconceptions. I was very keen on not giving them any answers because I wanted them to research and find the answers on their own and then share it with the class. I used Discovery Education to show them related videos and paused as we were watching so that they can discuss and take notes. I also directed them to a few websites and as a group of 3 or 2, they researched and found answers to questions on a teacher made worksheet. Students learned so much as they had to do the research themselves. We have also been monitoring the moon every night and discuss its phase. I also like the PowerPoint that was shared earlier. It has great visuals. I would like to try the Oreo cookie activity; I think the kids will love! Here is a copy of a lesson plan that I used from one of the SciGuides & the PowerPoint:

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by Jacqueline Nuha, Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:15 AM
Andrea or anyone that can help,

What did you end up using to create your model? I know the usual is a styrofoam ball display, but I was wondering if you used something else. Maybe another type of material that allows you to see inside the planets and see the core.

The last time I made a model of the Solar System was in the fifth grade so any ideas of how to make a model would be helpful.
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by Arlene Jurewicz Leighton, Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:53 PM


The last time I made a model of the Solar System was in the fifth grade so any ideas of how to make a model would be helpful.


What would you like students to know about the solar system?

One of the issues with building a solar system is that you really can not show size and distance with using styrofoam balls. You might want to consider using the tool from the Exploratorium Building a Solar System to scale. Lots of additional links from this resource as well.

Anothergreat resource is the NASA Year of the Solar System. Full of information for you and your students to explore !

Hope this helps..........
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by Carol McKenna, Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:25 AM
I teach 7th grade students and we just finished our "culminating project" for the Planets. We used an Award Show Theme and created a poster identify who received the awards. The key was that you had 8 circles (the planets) and you drew a caricature face of the planet using all your knowledge and awarded "planet superlatives". (ie, Mercury- Fastest Lap, Most likely to be hit with Cosmic Garbage: Mars - Most likely to be "home of the gods", Rock'n'Red,...
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