Today the 3rd and 4th graders got 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 Noodles: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. The kids had fun coming up with their own, fun mnemonic devices. We also discussed the differences between the four terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars) and the four gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune), and why Pluto is no longer considered a planet.
Two scale models were explored to reinforce the vastness of space (which is why they call it 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! We used meter sticks to show how big the sun would be in this scaled model.
To demonstrate the distances from the sun, we used squares of toilet paper (or tape measure) 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. With the aid of our distance model, we talked about how the distance from the sun affects the temperature of the planet as well as the length of it’s year. We also discussed the “other stuff” in our solar system, like asteroid belts and dwarf planets.
For a fun review of the planets, check out this music video we watched in class: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI5nBUidKqo