Solar System

The Solar System:  It’s Out of This World!

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 Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.   We also discussed why Pluto is no longer considered a planet.

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 squares of toilet paper  to represent astronomical units (AU), and laid the planets out to create a distance model.  Students were surprised to see how close the inner 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.

Author

Leighann

Leighann Sullivan earned her BS in Biology from Cornell University. For a number of years she taught math, science, and language skills at a secondary school for learning disabled students. She subsequently earned her PhD in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from Rice University. Her dissertation was entitled, “Molecular and Genomic Analyses in Clostridium acetobutylicum.” When not pursuing academic interests she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and experimenting in the culinary arts.

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