Take a Planet Walkby: Dwight Schuster

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Physical models in the classroom “cannot be expected to represent the full-scale phenomenon with complete accuracy, not even in the limited set of characteristics being studied” (AAAS 1990). Therefore, by modifying a popular classroom activity called a “planet walk,” teachers can explore upper elementary students’ current understandings; create an environment where students generate questions based on their prior knowledge; and challenge students to think critically about the accuracy and limitations of a scale model of our solar system.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (6)
  • on Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:04 PM

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. 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.

Chris Richardson
Chris Richardson

  • on Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:24 PM

It is very difficult for students to visualize the vast size of our solar system and the way we teach the solar system does not aid in this visualization. Taking a planet walk and placing planets further apart is a great way for students to see on a larger scale how our solar system is modeled and it also gets kids up and out of the classroom! What a fantastic idea to generate higher levels of thinking.

Shawna Paynter  (Barboursville, WV)
Shawna Paynter (Barboursville, WV)

  • on Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:14 AM

This article offers an new twist on the classroom solar system model. Instead of using styrofoam or a beach ball solar system, students create scaled models, place them on skewers, and place them in the ground at the correct scaled distance from the sun. The activity gives students an opportunity to work in groups and practice metric units. The article also outlines the types of questions teacher may expect students to ask and provides connections to standards.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Sun Dec 25, 2016 8:55 PM

Great idea of taking the model out to the school ground on a larger scale. I was hoping the chart would give me better details on the scale Perhaps I was not reading it correctly. I teach my students to discuss the imitations of the models in each lab we use . It seems we are always using or making some kind of model .

Judy Lucadou
Judy Lucadou

  • on Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:05 AM

This article made me think back to when I created a styrofoam model of the solar system and how the validity of the actual spacing between the planets and the sun was not a focal teaching point. However, I agree that my students should be taught about the significance of models and they should "reflect on how a model might be different from the actual phenomenon" (Schuster 2008). This will promote a better understanding that models are a scaled down version of the real thing. What I appreciate about this article is that at the end of the article it states what standard the article might align with and what grade level it could be suited for.

Jacqueline N  (, Hawaii)
Jacqueline N (, Hawaii)

  • on Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:30 PM

This article provides instructions for a lesson on creating a scaled version of the solar system. What I like about it is the author's emphasis on having a follow up discussion with students on what their model can tell them and what it can't. This helps addresses any misconceptions students might get from looking a model that is only scaled for one type of measurement. It encourages critical thinking and incorporates math into the lesson as well.

Kate Geer  (Louisville, CO)
Kate Geer (Louisville, CO)

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