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Lesson Title: Scale Models of the Solar System
May 11, 2012

Unit: Earth and Space Science - Year of the Solar System

Grade Levels: 7-9

Connection To Curriculum: Science, Mathematics and Technology

Teacher Prep Time: 3 hours

Lesson Time Needed: 3 hours

Complexity Moderate

Keywords: planet sizes, planet comparisons, Earth vs. Mars, models, science process, scale, orbits, solar system, sun, sizes


Balloon (for the model sun)
Metric ruler
Miniature marshmallows
Poppy seeds
Mustard seeds
Circle-shaped cereal
Popcorn kernels
Dried peas
1-centimeter gum balls
Black pepper
Model Planet Cards
Voyage of Discovery Worksheet
Pins or masking tape
Hard writing surface (to take outside)

This lesson allows students to visualize the comparative sizes and distances of solar system bodies by making solar system objects to scale using common objects, walking off the distances between planets and participating in a Web-based Sun/Earth scale model activity.

Students will:
• Demonstrate the size of the sun and the bodies of the solar system on the ten-billionth scale.
• Construct and walk the distances between the bodies of the solar system on the ten-billionth scale.
• Compare the temperature, diameter and distance to the sun with familiar things on Earth.

First page of Scale Models of the Solar Systems

Lesson Guide
Solar System Scale Models Lesson
[76KB PDF file]



Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. Exploring Planet Sizes
    This activity looks at the sizes of the planets and takes place in the classroom. Students predict the size of Earth and Jupiter and find foods (like cereal, gum balls, etc.) that are about the size of each planet.
    Keywords: planet sizes, comparisons, Earth as a peppercorn, edible

  2. Walking Planet Distances
    This activity requires the class to go outside to walk the distances between the planets.
    Keywords: planets, scale models, distances, modeling, orbits, sizes

  3. Solar Pizza
    Students compare the temperature, diameter and distance to the sun with familiar things on Earth.
    Keywords: planets, sizes, planet temperatures, sun, comparing planets, distances in space

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Earth and Space Science
• Earth in the solar system.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Ratios and Proportional Relationships
• Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems.

ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators for Students, ISTE
Creativity and Innovation
• Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.

Research and Information Fluency
• Process data and report results.

Technology Operations and Concepts
• Understand and use technology systems.


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