Earth and Space Science

Understanding the Universe

What are some ways to help students understand the vastness of the universe?

When I was growing up, and even sometimes to this day, it was difficult to understand what was meant by the universe or space. All I could imagine was the world I was living in. I have taught space to third graders and I noticed that the students were uninterested, which shocked me. I took a second and asked the students what they knew about space and many of them only mentioned that Earth is a planet in the milky way. I asked them how big they think the milky way is, and they suggested that it just surrounded our planet. I decided to find a video on youtube that "zooms out" to see the milkway and the surrounding galaxies. The students were blown away, and begged me to show more videos showing how vast the universe is. This prompted many questions, some of which I could not answer at the moment.

Are there any other ways to help students understand the universe or any resources that explain this in kid friendly language? 

Katherine Lawrence
Katherine Pulley
1235 Activity Points

Depending on the class I am teaching I make scale models. We make a scale model of the solar system outside to compare the sizes and distances of the planets. We also make a scale model of the galaxy, we can' accuratley show the sizes of stars, to see the distances involved, and we make a nodel of our ocal group of galaxies.

Bruce Donker
Bruce Donker
445 Activity Points

I think the activity with the video was a great idea. I know that when I was in 8th grade my teacher showed us a rap song about the order of the planets and to this day it has stuck with me. At the same time i am also wondering the same as you. How can i find things to teach about the universe that I feel comfortable answering questions about. 

Samantha Chinique
Samantha Chinique
485 Activity Points

I think the scale model would be very helpful. You can have them watch the video and then look at the models to get more hands-on experience. I still struggle with grasping how vast the universe is as well. Sometimes comparing the distance to objects they know helps as well, such as x many football fields. 

Lily Albertson
Lily Albertson
500 Activity Points

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