Today’s lesson allowed us to explore our solar system! We learned about the eight planets in our solar system and how to remember their order using a mnemonic device (a tool to aid in remembering)– My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.
Two scale models were explored to reinforce the vastness of space. The relative size of the eight planets was emphasized using spheres ranging in size from a marble (Mercury) to an exercise ball (Jupiter). This helped us to get a better understanding of how the size of each planet compares to the others. It was amazing to see just how big Jupiter is compared to all of the other planets!
To demonstrate the distances from the sun, we used the tape and laid the planets out to create a distance model. Students were surprised to see how close the inner planets, or terrestrial planets, were to each other, and how spread out the Gas Giants are in addition to being so far from the sun. We also discussed the “other stuff” in our solar system, like asteroid belts, comets, the Kuiper Belt and dwarf planets. On the topic of dwarf planets, we discussed the 3 criteria that need to be met in order for a celestial object to be called a planet: it must orbit the Sun, it must be big enough for gravity to pull it into a round ball, and its gravity must have
cleared other things out of its orbital path. Pluto meets 2 out of 3 of these criteria, which is why Pluto is no longer considered a planet., but rather, a dwarf planet!