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Lesson Title: How Does Earth Compare?
November 3, 2011

Unit: Earth and Space Science - Planetology

Grade Levels: 7-9

Connection To Curriculum: Earth Science and Astronomy

Teacher Prep Time: 1.0 hour

Complexity Basic


Part 1 - Exploring Planet Sizes
Balloon (for the sun model)
Miniature marshmallows
Poppy seeds
Mustard seeds
Circle-shaped cereal
Popcorn kernels
Dried peas
1-centimeter gum balls
Black pepper
Model planet cards
Part 2 - Walking Planet Distances
Pins or masking tape
Hard writing surface (to take outdoors)
Part 3
Internet access

This lesson combines a series of activities to compare models of the size of Earth to other planets and the distances to other planets. Activities highlight space missions to other planets in our solar system.

Students will:
• Use models to compare sizes of planets and measure the distances of the planets from the sun.
• Describe the different space missions to other planets in our solar system.

First page of How Does Earth Compare?

Lesson Guide
How Does Earth Compare? Lesson
[117KB PDF file]



Professional Development Training Module for This Lesson

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Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. Exploring Planet Sizes
    Students investigate planetary sizes by using models to represent planets in our solar system. (Page 30)
  2. Earth, Moon, Mars Balloons Activity
    Construct a scale model of the Earth-Moon-Mars system in terms of planetary size and discover how far one might have to travel to get to the moon or Mars.
  3. Walking the Planet Distances
    Students walk the distances among planets using meter measurements.
  4. Solar System Missions
    Students research recent discoveries about our solar system using NASA Internet sites.

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Earth and Space Science
• Origin and evolution of the earth system.
• Structure of the earth system.
• Earth in the solar system.

History and Nature of Science
• Science as a human endeavor.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Ratios and Proportional Relationships
• Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems.

Expressions and Equations
• Understand the connections between proportional relationships, lines and linear equations.

U.S. National Geography Standards, NCGE
The World in Spatial Terms
• How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places and environments on the Earth's surface.

ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators for Students, ISTE
Creativity and Innovation
• Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes.

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
• Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.


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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator