Scale Model of Solar System Lab Activity NGSS Middle School MS-ESS1-2 MS-ESS1-3

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Grade Levels
4th - 9th, Homeschool
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5 pages
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TRY ME FOR FREE!!!! This NGSS aligned two-day lab activity is a FUN, EYE-OPENING, and mathematically accurate way to model planet size and orbits in our solar system and incorporate the Performance Expectations for MS-ESS1: MS-ESS1-2. Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system and MS-ESS1-3. Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system as well as the Crosscutting concept of Scale, Proportion, and Quantity. Students use the Science and Engineering Practice of Analyzing and Interpreting Data to create a scale model
(Scale, Proportion, and Quantity) of the sizes and orbits of the planets and the sun and take them to a large area to "WALK THEM!!!"

My students are always shocked to see just how different in size and distance each planet is to one another! Ideally, it could be used within an astronomy unit after students have an understanding of the unique differences between the planets but can be taught at any point in the unit even as the hook at the very beginning. It provides students with data on the sizes of the planets as well as their distances from the sun using units that are measurable on earth. Students measure, create, and "walk" the planets outside to model the sizes and distances from one another. Truly eye-opening! NOTE: The sun is just too big to make with paper, but it's super cool for the students to discover this on their own in the activity!

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Total Pages
5 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 days
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system. Emphasis for the model is on gravity as the force that holds together the solar system and Milky Way galaxy and controls orbital motions within them. Examples of models can be physical (such as the analogy of distance along a football field or computer visualizations of elliptical orbits) or conceptual (such as mathematical proportions relative to the size of familiar objects such as students’ school or state). Assessment does not include Kepler’s Laws of orbital motion or the apparent retrograde motion of the planets as viewed from Earth.
Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system. Emphasis is on the analysis of data from Earth-based instruments, space-based telescopes, and spacecraft to determine similarities and differences among solar system objects. Examples of scale properties include the sizes of an object’s layers (such as crust and atmosphere), surface features (such as volcanoes), and orbital radius. Examples of data include statistical information, drawings and photographs, and models. Assessment does not include recalling facts about properties of the planets and other solar system bodies.


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