Mysteries of Space: What Is the Scale of Our Solar System?

Construct a scale model of our solar system to visualize the relative size of solar system objects and their distances from each other in space.

Grades 6-8 90 min Resource by:

“What is the scale of our solar system?” Students will be introduced to the units of measurement that scientists use to measure objects within and outside of our solar system, and they will then calculate the dimensions of a solar system built to scale. Students go outside to construct a scale model of the solar system. This lesson also provides options for constructing a model in a smaller space or by using a map of the school grounds and surrounding area.

Learning Objectives

  • Compare the size and scale of planets in our solar system.
  • Calculate and walk the distance of our solar system at scale.
  • Describe the nature of planets in our solar system based on their distance from the Sun.

What You’ll Need

Hands-on

  • A ball that is 8 inches in diameter (kickball, bowling ball, etc.)
  • One ounce each of modeling clay in the following colors: gray, yellow (used twice), blue, red, orange, purple, and light blue
  • Index cards
  • Markers
  • Tape
  • Calculators

Minds-on

  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Organization
  • Collaboration

This project-based learning (PBL) lesson is designed to spark curiosity and invite students to learn about the forces that shape our solar system and the nature of planets and moons shaped by these forces. This lesson has been adapted from the PBL unit, Mysteries of Space.

If you are planning to use this lesson independently of the unit or in a remote learning setting, we have included suggested adaptions throughout the lesson in bold, red font in the “Teacher Guide” section.

How did planet sizes and distances change as you moved farther from the Sun?

How might distance from the Sun impact an organism’s structures for survival on these planets?

What might they need closer to or farther from the Sun to thrive?

This lesson can be taught alone, but it is intended to be taught after Mysteries of Space: Launch Lesson.

This lesson has been adapted from an Educurious project-based learning unit, Mysteries of Space. In this short capstone unit, students explore the question: “Where would you search for life in space?” Project teams gear up to design an organism capable of thriving on a particular planet or moon by analyzing data about the diversity and nature of our solar system, constructing a scale model of the solar system, and designing a gravity well model to visualize generalizable principles related to mass, distance, and gravity. When they’re ready to address the design challenge, students conduct research on their planet or moon’s environmental conditions and consider examples of extremophiles that thrive in similar environments on Earth. Project teams present their organisms for evaluation at a Life in Space Discovery Challenge.

To explore more, please visit the “Project-Based Courses” page at Educurious.

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