What sizes are the planets and how do they move around the sun?

Akbar Rasheed Muhammad
Saint Paul Academy and Summit School
Saint Paul, MN 55104

Based on original activity from Sally Spooner, Sunset Elementary School, Cody, Wyoming


This is an whole class activity in which the class will physically model how the planets move around the sun. We will have balloons blown up to the size of each planet. Students will see that all the planets smallest to biggest and the distance that they are away from the sun. The students will learn about vocabulary words: solar system, revolution, rotation, and orbit.

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Learning Goals

During the lesson the students will:
Observe planets are different sizes
Observe planets are different distances from the sun
Define solar system, orbit revolution, rotation, and orbit

Context for Use

This activity is for primary grades 1-2. I explain this activity indoors but it is best done outside, where there is plenty of room to move. However, it can be adapted for the classroom. I would allow about 45 minutes for this lesson since it is an abstract concept to students this age level. I do this activity for my Astronomy unit. I think this activity could be easily adaptable to almost any setting.

Subject: Geoscience:Lunar and Planetary Science
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Field Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: Primary (K-2)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Planetary Science

Description and Teaching Materials


Teaching Notes and Tips

I have the balloons ready to go before class and I have backup balloons prepped just in case. Students love going outside to do this activity.


I have a whole class discussion and I ask the students who think they can come up in front of class to show us what the different vocabulary words look like with their bodies. This way, students will physically demonstrate their understanding.


1. The practice of Science
1. Scientists work as individuals and in groups to investigate the natural world, emphasizing evidence and communicating with others

Benchmark Students will be supporting their answers with observations. They will recognize that describing things as accurately as possible is important in science because it enables people to compare their observations with those of others.

2nd grade:
Physical Science
2. Motion
The motion of an object can be described by a change in its position over time.

Benchmark: Describe an object's change in position relative to other objects or a background.

References and Resources