There is a vast amount of space… in space. It can be difficult to help students grasp the concept of just how large the solar system actually is. The following article will explain how to do scale related projects of the solar system a few different ways. Be sure to choose a project that is appropriate for the age group.
Whether you are a cool parent just trying to help your kid learn in an engaging way or a teacher that is looking for a fun class project, these solar system project ideas are for you. Most young kids can’t even comprehend the distance of a mile let alone the billions of miles in space of the solar system. Scale projects will at least help to solidify the idea of how absolutely large space is, if not the exact distance between and size of each planet.
It makes sense to go to the experts first. If anyone knows a lot about space it is NASA. This project is an idea direct from their website.
You will only need two items for this project:
1) Accounting Paper
2) Writing Utensil/Markers
Oftentimes the solar system is depicted with equal amounts of space between each planet in a relatively straight course. However, just like all of earth and space, that is not true. There are a lot of inconsistencies and variety. This project starts with students making their own predictions of how far apart the planets are from each other. Once completed, fractions will be used to check and correct answers with reality.
How to begin:
1) Unravel an entire roll of accounting paper
2) Label one end the sun
3) Label the opposite end Pluto or “Kuiper Belt”
4) Allow children to mark where on the paper they think the other planets reside
5) Coloring is optional but makes the project more interesting
How to Assess: (It is a good idea to use a black sharpie for this part to distinguish)
1) Grab the end with the sun and lay it over Uranus
2) Make a crease and that is where Saturn is located
3) Grab the end with pluto and also lay it over Uranus
4) Make a crease and this is where Neptune is located
5) Again with the sun end take it to Saturn and mark Jupiter
You can find the rest of the steps and picture instructions on the NASA website.
A toilet paper solar system project can be done in the same type of manner without the predictions and folding. Unravelling a roll of toilet paper and marking the appropriate location of the planets to that scale will help young students gain an understanding of just how far apart the planets are and how much space is above us.
This project helps children distinguish the difference in size of each planet in a fun and tasty way. We don’t know a lot or have a lot of experience with any planets besides earth, but this representation will touch on the size of space because it will be plain to see how small earth is in comparison to the other planets. And yet, for those of us who reside on earth, it seems so large. All of these fruits are easy to find most any time of the year. If there is a certain fruit mentioned that you cannot find, just find something that is closest in size to replace it.
Venus & Mars
Since these two are close enough to the same size they can both be represented by a blueberry.
Mercury & Earth
These two planets are also similar in size and are most accurately represented by a grape or small cherry tomato.
A large grapefruit is a wise choice for this planet. It is not quite big enough to be a melon, but is larger than most other fruits we commonly see.
A navel orange is a good choice for Uranus. The sizing should be in between the size of Saturn and Neptune. Depending on the season of the fruit you may find an apple to be larger than an orange and you can adjust accordingly.
The planet Neptune can be equated to a medium sized apple. Neptune should be slightly smaller than Uranus.
This is the fun and exciting one that all the kids love. Jupiter is very large. It is best represented by a watermelon!
Be sure to enjoy the taste of all of these planets for the grand finale!
Visual Planet Comparison
This is very similar to the above mentioned project, but is not all edible fruits. This is done with the same concept just using regular items you could find around the house or a scavenger hunt through the dollar store to spice it up. If doing in a classroom setting you could assign kids to bring something from home that matches the size of their specific assigned planet.
Some ideas for this could be:
Choosing a Solar System Project
These are just a few of the fun ideas that pertain to the size and scale of the solar system. Why not let your child or classroom choose which project sounds most appealing to them? And, you don’t have to do just one. It might be wise to choose a distance and a size project and do them both in the same unit.