This Scaled Solar System activity will help your students understand the relative distances and sizes of the planets while satisfying the visual and kinesthetic learning styles of your middle school students! It also perfectly aligns to the NGSS Standard MS-ESS1-3, analyzing and interpreting data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system. Students work in groups to create a scaled model of the solar system by measuring (and calculating in the case of the more challenging version of this activity) the specific distance to place each "planet" from the "sun".
There are two versions of the activity depending on the abilities of your students...one requires more calculations.
You will need these materials per group (I put these items in a sandwich bag for each group):
- a roll of cash register paper (you can buy these at Staples or Office Max)
- 2 "seed beads" (the tiny beads for making beaded jewelry)
- 2 black peppercorns
- a racquetball
- a fishing bobber (the plastic red and white kind)
- a marble
- a small bouncy ball with diameter of approximately 2 cm
- a set of the Planet Information Cards
- a meter stick
This file contains the student instructions for each version, which includes a short vocabulary "fill in the blank", the data table, reflection questions and vocabulary review sheet. Also included are the answer key that has the exact measurements that each planet should be from the "sun," and the Planet Information Cards, on which is the data that the students use for the lab.
Check out my Tour of the Solar System Intro to the Planets Gallery Walk and Graphic Organizer
as a possible lead-in to the scaled model!
Thanks for looking!