Solar System to Scale Lab

Grade Levels
6th, 7th, 8th, 9th
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The objective of our lab today is to make a scale model of our solar system, so that we can better understand just how large the distances in our solar system are. Although the true size of the solar system is much larger than what we will be working with, this lab will help us see just how far away the planets are from each other.

Materials Required
- Scientific Calculator
- Meter Stick(s)
- Objects/signs to represent each object in the Solar System

This lab is used in 8th grade physical science and 9th grade earth science. After students calculate the scale distances between each object in the Solar System, you then have the class make the scale solar system by placing labeled objects/signs and measuring each object's distances out to the scale they've calculated.

You can modify the lab to fit any scale you'd like. I have my students create the scale model down our hallway, which is about 50 feet long. You can do this in a space as small as the classroom, or as large as the football/track field. The numerator in the left side of the proportion on page 2 is left blank for you to create a scale that fits your needs. Once you've calculated the scale, you can either plug it in before you photocopy, or just have the students fill it in before they begin.

To calculate a scale that works for you, follow these steps:
1) Decide the length that you want to work with and convert it into centimeters. I used 50 ft, which is equal to 1524 cm.
2) Use the proportion below and solve for x:

5,900,000,000 km x km
----------------------------------- = -----------------------------------
(your length in cm here) 1 cm

3) X is the scale that your students will be plugging into the numerator on the left side of their proportion on page 2.

It meets the New York State NYS science standards, as well as the common core standards.
Total Pages
3
Answer Key
N/A
Teaching Duration
40 Minutes

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Solar System to Scale Lab