Planets Made Real - Creating Size and Distance Scale of Planets in the Student's Community
Students select a marble from a bowl of many of different sizes. This represents model Earth. Students are to use this model and planet information of size and distance to tabulate and record model size and distance of the solar system. Students will create cutout models of planets to display in class, and the ellipses of the planets on city and county maps with the sun located at the site of the school. Questions for further study will develop when the students see their solar system model spread out over the county.
2) This activity is designed for students to use tabulated data to create a solar system model.
3) Students will compare their perceptions on their beliefs about the solar system before and after the investigation.
Context for Use
Proportions are usually covered in the sixth grade; however, a review of the skill may be necessary either by the math or science teacher. Students are usually taught proportions out of context and never get to use it in a real life situation. Once they learn how it is done, proportion will become a handy life-skill tool to be adapted to other areas of their life.
Description and Teaching Materials
At the beginning of class on day two, each group is given a city and county map. The groups mark the approximate location of the school on each map. The school will be the location of the sun or the center of the model of the solar system. Students are also asked to predict and mark where the other seven planets and dwarf planet Pluto would be located on the maps using the school as the sun.
Students are asked to tabulate a scale model of our solar system using the Earth's size represented with the marble. Their end products will be their data organized in an understandable, word processed format, scale planet cutouts, and the scale ellipses of the planets on the given maps.
Several colors of butcher paper, scissors, compasses, meter sticks, and computers should be made available in the classroom. Students will display their planet cutouts on the class walls. Their maps and data collection sheets will be used in class discussion.
Since the original marbles are different sizes, the calculations will not be the same between the groups. Students will compare their cutouts to the neighboring groups. The class will compare the different group's proportions of the distances from the data sheets and maps.
Question always arise on how astronomers found the distant planets. This opens the new round of inquiry. Teacher Made - Student Filled (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 40kB Aug20 08) Evaluation Rubric ( PRIVATE FILE 25kB Aug20 08)
Teaching Notes and Tips
If the student multiples the real diameter of any planet (say, Mars) by the model diameter of Earth (or the diameter of the marble) and divides that number by the real diameter of Earth, the missing variable X will be the model diameter of the planet (Mars)
If the student multiples the model diameter of any planet (say, Mars) by the real distance of Mars to the sun and divides that number by the real diameter of Mars, the missing variable Y will be the model distance of the planet (Mars) to the sun.
In past years the students were given the same size marble, a data collection sheet, and a set of directions on how to come up with the answers. I taught the math and spoon feed them with skills that they should have but are not using. Everything is doable according to the school's curriculum. They should have no problems adjusting to inquiry.