Solar System Hall Model Standards Addressed: 6.3.1 Compare and contrast the size, composition, and surface features of the planets that comprise the solar system, as well as the objects orbiting them. Explain that the planets, except Pluto, move around the sun in nearly circular orbits. 6.3.3 Explain that Earth is one of several planets that orbit the sun, and that the moon, as well as many artificial satellites and debris, orbit around Earth. Objectives: This lesson will give students an idea of the scale of the solar system and teach them the characteristics of the planets. Required Materials: Large sheets of paper, meter sticks, measuring tape, crayons or markers, yarn or ribbon. Lesson Introduction: The solar system spans an immense distance which is often difficult for students to comprehend. In this lesson, students construct a scale model of the solar system in the school hallway. Students can then see the great relative distances the planets are from the sun. Scientists measure distances from the sun using observations from different points along a planet’s orbit, then calculating the distance using trigonometry. Here is a table of planetary sizes and distances from the sun: Planet Polar Radius (km) Mercury 2439 Venus 6052 Earth 6357 Mars 3380 Jupiter 66854 Saturn 54360 Uranus 24973 Neptune 24340 Pluto 1160 Number of Times Distance from Earth 0.3871 0.7233 1 1.88 11.86 29.46 84.01 164.79 248.54 Distance (millions of miles) 36 67.2 93 142 483 886 1782 2777 3666 Here is a table of scaled down distances which can be replicated in a school hallway: PLANET DIAMETER (cm) Mercury 4 Venus 10 Earth 10 Moon 3 Mars 5 Jupiter 113 Saturn 94 Uranus 41 Neptune 39 Pluto 2 DISTANCE (m) 4.5 8.5 11.7 3cm from Earth 17.9 61 112 226 354 463 All diameters are 60975000 times smaller than the actual size. All distances are 12874752000 times smaller. The diameters and distances are not on the same scale, because otherwise the model would either be too large or the planets too small for use in a school hallway. Even at this scale, the sun is too large for a reasonable model. This is because the sun has a radius of 640064 km, which would make it 1050 cm, which is over thirty feet wide. Procedures: 1. Circles of the appropriate sizes, as listed in the table above, should be cut out of the paper. If desired, students could investigate planet sizes and distances on their own and come up with the sizes of each planet circle, but it is important that all planets are on the same scale and that all planets are a reasonable size. A good website for student research is the National Air and Space Museum solar system website: 2. Students should separate into groups for each planet. Have students color the planets based upon appropriate illustrations from science books, magazines, etc. Students may make planetary rings using yarn or ribbon. Students should also make a label for their planet. This label should be readable from the hallway and should include the planet’s name, size, and distance from the sun. If desired, additional information may be put on the label. A label should also be made for the sun. If desired, a large arc may be used to represent part of the sun, since it will be too large for the hallway. 3. In the hallway, decide on a corner to use as the sun and place the sun label there. As based on the table above, measure the appropriate distances from the sun for each planet. Each group should put its own planet and label up, but the entire class should stay together as the model is assembled, enabling them to better understand the scope of the solar system. 4. After the model is set up, engage students in a discussion of the solar system. Are there things they are surprised about? What new insights have they learned? What new questions arise from the model? Assessment: Participation points may be awarded for the discussion and for participating in the model correctly (i.e. the planets should be the correct size, distance, and color, the labels should be correct). If students are gathering their own information about the planets, rather than using the information provided, the information may be included in participation points, or written up as a report. Reports should include the information gathered about the particular planet the student researched, plus how this planet compares to the rest in the solar system.

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