Saturday, February 9, 2019

Science Club: Making a Solar System String

The greatest challenge I think in teaching Astronomy is giving children an appropriate sense of scale. Just how far away are the different bodies in our Solar System??? Our first project has been to tackle this question in depth.

We will continue with our planetary visits and exploration of scale throughout the month of February.

Friday, January 24

  • create scale for our Solar System String and measure 40 m of yarn (this is easiest if you alternate 2 meter long pieces of different colors so that later you can quickly find the correct place for each planet)

    The Sun is at one end of our Solar System String; we chose Ultima Thule for the other end. Ultima Thule is 6.5 billion km from our Sun.

    With a 40 meter long string, the scale is as follows:

      40 m = 6,500,000,000 km

      2 m (one length of pink or blue yarn) = 325 million km

      1 m = 162,5000,000 km

      1 cm = 1,625,000 km

      1 mm = 162,500 km

  • follow up on previous session's lunar eclipse and phases of the moon questions, demonstrate how the position of the Moon and the Earth in relationship to one another and the Sun causes the moon phases
  • do Phases of the Moon with Oreo Cookies activity

Friday, February 1

  • introduce mnemonic "My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Noodles" to help us remember the order of the planets
  • plan our space travel and assemble our Space Exploration Pod

Friday, February 8

  • calculate the distance to scale and place the Earth and Moon along our Solar System String (we are using the beautiful picture cards in The Photographic Deck of the Solar System by Marcus Chown)
  • get in our Space Pod and blast off to explore our first two planets (Neptune and Uranus)

    We followed the same procedure for each planetary visit:

    First the children got out of the pod and looked around.

    Then I welcomed them as their intergalactic tour guide.

    I read them the planet poem from Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars by Douglas Florian.

    I read them the information on the origins of the planet's name from Greek & Roman Mythology from Kingdom of the Sun: A Book of the Planets by Jacqueline Mitton.

    We looked at interesting facts about the planet in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Space & Space Exploration: Discovering the Secrets of the Universe.

    We looked at the photo cards for the planet in The Photographic Deck of the Solar System.

    We went to the art room and drew/painted an illustration of the planet using water soluble oil pastels (Prima, Crayola, and Caran d'Ache Metallics), water, brushes, and watercolor paper.

    We calculated the scale (distance from the planet to our Sun in km / 162,500,000) and then measured and placed the planet card at the appropriate spot along the Solar System String. The alternating pink and blue pattern in our yarn string really helps with skip counting!

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