Tried and True: Solar System in the Hallwayby: Malonne Davies, Linda Landis, and Arthur Landis

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After studying phenomena related to the positions and motions of the Earth, Sun, and Moon, many students are familiar with the positional ordering of the planets, but their knowledge of the distances involved is vague. Scale models are one means of bringing extreme sizes into better focus, cutting them down to relative values that they can better comprehend. The Solar System in the Hallway activity consists of a scale model of the inter-planet distances set up in a hallway for students to explore. This article describes how to send your students on a trip to the Solar System via your school’s hallway!

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Reviews (15)
  • on Wed Oct 30, 2013 9:14 PM

I loved Tried and True: Solar System in the Hallway so much! I really enjoyed this source because it helps bring a very hard to understand concept (The scale and movement of the Solar System) into a more concrete and easier to understand mode of comprehension. I loved that this activity was hands-on and reminded me of a activity I did using toilet paper to demonstrate the scale of the distance between the planets.

Anna W
Anna W

  • on Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:22 PM

I just recently did the activity described in the article in a solar system workshop. The activity was a fantastic way to demonstrate just how large the solar system is and the relative distance of the planets. Even as an adult, the activity put the size of the solar system into perspective for me. This article describes the activity perfectly. It is a great cooperative, hands-on, visual learning activity.

Katarina Lincalis
Katarina Lincalis

  • on Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:56 PM

This is a great engagement activity, although has to be done in a smaller group to keep focus and attention where you aim for it to be. Incorporates math skill and scaling of models to get a glance at the planet spacing. The article also includes some extended activities if desired.

Tonya V  (Halethorpe, MD)
Tonya V (Halethorpe, MD)

  • on Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:16 PM

As the author says: "We feel that having the students experience or explore the model solar system helps to internalize the relative magnitudes involved, whereas the calculate-the-scaledistance approach helps them appreciate the mathematics involved." I have tried the mathematics way of doing this, but I feel that this author is right that students internalize more by exploring the model. Very few materials are needed and the directions are very clear.

Betty Paulsell  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty Paulsell (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:22 PM

I really enjoyed the fact that this is a hands-on activity that uses very few resources. I also enjoyed the fact that in AU, a real scientific unit that people in astronomy would really use - the students could use it with confidence that it was actually applicable. I also really enjoyed the fact that relative size of the planet is taught as part of the activity. The pre- and post-activity questions also allow for some good reflection, and any students that work faster than the rest of the class could also be equally entertained with the activities under the "Possible extensions" section.

Marianne Blemly  (Ellicott City, Maryland)
Marianne Blemly (Ellicott City, Maryland)

  • on Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:16 AM

This activity is geared towards middle school students but I do not think that it would be out of line to try it with some upper elementary classes. It is also nice because the same general idea could be used for younger students. Does not require a lot of resources but students gain a lot of information.

Kathleen Chachich  (Hanover, MD)
Kathleen Chachich (Hanover, MD)

  • on Tue Oct 04, 2011 3:26 PM

This activity is designed to give students a better understanding of the relative distances between planets throughout the solar system. It is designed for middle school, but could be done by upper elementary as is or easily adapted for younger grades. Another benefit of the activity is its simplicity. Not much more than a long hallway or open space, pictures/markers for the planets, and stop watches is needed.

Amy Kelly
Amy Kelly

  • on Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:01 PM

This article introduces practical ideas to help students grasp the size of our solar system. This activity helps students visualize the distance between planets by engaging in a hands-on activity that enables them to experience the distance between the plants in a practical, scaled model. This is an excellent activity to engage students while they learn about the scale and size of our solar system.

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

  • on Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:45 AM

The abundance of background information on the misconceptions of the size of our solar system and the included lesson plan that is written with clear directions can be very beneficial to an Astronomy classroom. This resource helps the teacher understand that there are many misconceptions around-adults and students alike. With the teacher’s clear knowledge of any misconceptions, the lesson may go smoother with a result in fewer misconceptions around the world. The lesson plan is explained in depth to the teacher in the article surrounding it. This is very beneficial to the teacher as well because it helps guide the lesson and keep the students inquiring about other ideas. I feel that all of the information included in this article, the teacher will be better fit to teach this lesson plan to a classroom filled with students as well as keep inquiry alive in the classroom.

Samantha Baccaglini
Samantha Baccaglini

  • on Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:07 PM

This is a great activity to do with your class. Students will really enjoy being able engaged with the lesson. I have not done this exact activity, but I did participate in one that was very similar. The interactive aspects really help the concepts stick in your memory. Scale models are important to demonstrate what we can’t really conceive without them. It is also helpful that the lesson includes pre- and post-activity questions. While these questions can certainly help teachers prepare and assess, they should definitely be adapted to meet the class’s specific needs.


  • on Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:40 AM

This is a great activity to illustrate the distances between planets and their distance from the sun.

Elizabeth Clingenpeel
Elizabeth Clingenpeel

  • on Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:30 PM

I think this activity would be eye opening for students. However, I think setting up the model ahead of time, may take away from the students awe at the distance between the sun and its surrounding planets! While setting up a scale, might focus on mathematics, I believe its important to garner and understanding that math and science go hand in hand. A happy medium here, would be to set up the scaled model as a group. Lead the students to the hallway and hang The Sun poster, then guide them through setting up the model by telling them what each tile represents. Ask students to provide the rest of the information - the distance between each planet and gather feedback and observations as set up continues. Then, set the students free, requiring certain observations to be reported. Easily differentiated as well - different groups can be responsible for a different tier of observations.

Jessica  (Baltimore, MD)
Jessica (Baltimore, MD)

  • on Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:35 PM

This is a great article for teachers to gain ideas about how to make the solar system relative to their students understanding. The solar system isn't a place where the students can take a field trip to. This article will help teachers to bring the solar system to the classroom while keeping the proportions relatively the same. This article used tiles in the hallway. In my methods course, we did this same type of activity but with toilet paper. We had to do the math to determine how many squares needed to be between the planets. Once we finished, we set up our model in the hallway and completed a solar system walk. It was interesting because it showed how far apart the planets were. As a class we stopped at each planet and discussed a few facts about each one.

Laura H
Laura H

  • on Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:43 AM

I like that this activity (designed for middle school kids) does not have them making the calculations on their own. I would provide that information to them (how the calculations were made) but middle school students often get very intimidated by large numbers - completely distracting them from the objective which is to just have an appreciation for the scale of our solar system. For high school students, they would probably have little difficulty working with the numbers, but might not need to bother if they only needed to remember the scales involved. Great activity!

Kendra Young  (Lake Stevens, WA)
Kendra Young (Lake Stevens, WA)

  • on Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:31 AM

This article describes a takeoff of a toilet paper solar system in the school hallway. Instead of sheets of toilet paper, the students use tiles on the floor. They extension questions posed in this activity are good. It is a good math/science activity but not really new.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

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