# Solar System Scale and Size

Contributor
Mars Space Flight Facility, Arizona State University managed by the NASA JPL Mars Exploration Program
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Model , Activity
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

No reviews

## Description

Solar System Scale and Size is a two-part activity that explores relative distances and sizes of objects in our Solar System using the 5E Instructional Model. In Activity 1, students are tasked with calculating relative distances to the Sun for the planets, Asteroid Belt and Pluto using information provided in a student handout. Once the calculations are complete, students use this information to produce a relative distance model of the Solar System with string and beads. In Activity 2, students use food items to assign relative sizes to each planet (including dwarf planet, Pluto). Please note that this evaluation only pertains to the Solar System Size and Scale 5th - 8th Grade Lesson Plan and Middle School Alignment Document.

Intended Audience

Learner
Educational Level
• Middle School
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

#### Performance Expectations

MS-ESS1-3 Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the analysis of data from Earth-based instruments, space-based telescopes, and spacecraft to determine similarities and differences among solar system objects. Examples of scale properties include the sizes of an object’s layers (such as crust and atmosphere), surface features (such as volcanoes), and orbital radius. Examples of data include statistical information, drawings and photographs, and models.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include recalling facts about properties of the planets and other solar system bodies.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Solar System Scale and Size deals with the portion of the Performance Expectation pertaining to orbital radius. In the first activity, students are tasked with producing a relative distance model of the Solar System. Prior to construction, students must take distance data, in the form of astronomical units, and convert it into a form that can be used to produce their model. The raw distance data used in their calculations is found in Student Worksheet C of the Student Guide. In the Farmer's Market Solar System activity, students are tasked with predicting the relative sizes of the planets using various sized fruits; however, data is not provided to aid students in their selections. Since students may resort to guessing when assigning fruits to represent the planets, teachers may wish to incorporate actual diameter data of the planets which can be easily found on the Internet. By requiring students to use data to complete the second activity, teachers will be strengthening the connection of the activity to the Performance Expectation.

#### Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

In the relative distance activity of Solar System Scale and Size, students are required to manipulate data prior to model construction. Using the results of their calculations, students measure scaled distances between objects in the solar system. Although students are not creating the model from scratch, they are required to generate the data which will be used. This last step takes the activity out of the realm of cookbook science. In the relative size activity, students are not developing their own models; rather, they are selecting which teacher provided fruits/seeds represent each planet. Since the activity does not provide any data which students can use in making their choices, the activity may be reduced to a guessing game where success is dependent on prior knowledge. To avoid this, teachers may want students to make initial selections and then refine their choices using diameter information obtained from websites or textbooks. Then, students will be able to assess the accuracy of their initial work and revise their model accordingly.

#### Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

This particular collection of activities addresses relative distances and sizes of the planets. Teachers should use this activity to introduce the idea that the size of orbital paths varies greatly in our solar system. Teachers can cover the “why” (gravitational pull) of orbital paths at a later time.

#### Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.