When students learn about the Solar System they have a difficult time visualizing or comprehending what the distances are like between the planets and the sizes of the planets and the Sun. Most textbooks show pictures of the planet on one scale and the distances between the planets on another scale. They never have them to the same scale. The reason why is that the Solar System is huge! There are a ton of Solar System scale model lessons on the web. One of the best is the half mile long model. In this model the following represent the planets (see slide show): Mercury, Mars, and Pluto = head of pin, Earth and Mars = peppercorn, Jupiter = rubber ball, Saturn = hazelnut, Uranus and Neptune = peanut, Sun = volleyball. I glued these items (except the volleyball) to paper plates. I then made a flag for each planet out of wooden dowels and construction paper. I then inserted the flags through the middle of the paper plates and set the combination into a PE cone (see slide show). The distance between the planets are on the teacher handout (students have a separate handout). I have my students record into a lab composition book a journal of their tour. They answer questions before, during and after the tour. They are pretty amazed by the size of the model (see slide show). You need to have a pretty straight stretch of street (see slide show) to use, that isn’t too busy. I give my principal notice ahead of time and I also bring a first aid kit.
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