Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Taking a look at the Solar System

Now that we have explored our moon it was time to look at the planets. We started with talking about what planets are and what they are not. I had printed out a great worksheet that helped "A" with the classification from 1+1+1=1 Solar System Preschool Pack. This is a fabulous resource and I recommend everyone check out all the printables she has!

Next on the agenda for learning we talked about the orbit the planets have around the sun. From Exploring the Solar System by Mary Kay Carson I found an activity to help demonstrate that the planets don't go around the sun in a perfect circle but in a orbit we call elliptical.
1st fold a paper in half both ways. Put a tack in the middle as the sun. Take a string and draw a circle.
Next put a second tack anywhere on the horizontal line. Put the string over both tacks and draw another circle (elliptical orbit)
I had "A" color a sun for the middle and color an Earth to put it on orbit around the sun.
This has some great learning activities but the text is better for children over ten.
 I had "A" watch Magic School Bus Space Adventures because he walks away with a wealth of knowledge that he retains from these movies. The movie is from the 90s so we talked about how when I was younger we said we had nine planets in the solar system, but now they don't classify Pluto as one of the planets. We now call it a dwarf planet and we have new dwarf planets that we didn't recognize before. I tried to tell him it was an exciting time because scientist are really gaining new insight into our solar system, rather than comment on how confusing it is (which it is!!!) We then watched a read a book online at NASA called The First Annual Planet Awards. It was a great way to learn just the most important facts about each planet, a must for short attention spans. We followed up our research with some books from our library. We also looked at space photos, "A's" age and weight on NASA too. "A" had figured out his weight on the other planets earlier when we went to the Seattle Pacific Science Center in May. I then had "A" sort the planets into terrestrial planet and gas giants.

Movie Research:
 Books We Read:
13 Planets by David Aguilar ( an update look at the solar system by National Geographic Kids)
Me and My Place in Space by Joan Sweeny (these ME books are a series and a must read)
There's No Place Like Space by Tish Rabe
The Planets in Our Solar System by Franklyn Branley (Read-and-Find-Out Science book)

Pacific Science Center:
"A" in a space capsule

Sorting the Planets:
Planets are from the preschool pack mentioned earlier!
Then it came time for our huge activity of the day. I took the printable planets that I got from 1+1+1=1 blog (mentioned above) and we went for a walk to do a scaled down look at the distance of the planets from each other and the sun. Our front door was the sun (since that is the center of our universe), and then using a guide in the Exploring the Solar System book mentioned earlier we started counting our steps. It was great practice for "A" to practice his counting higher than 30. It was remarkable how far we got!
Our guide for you to try!
The sun-our starting point
The four terrestrial planets (pretty close to the sun and each other)
Our first gas giant starting to get farther away
Our planets on the sidewalk. Luckily no one took them. We put rocks on them so they wouldn't blow away!
Saturn-our house is at the big tree and up the driveway
Our ending point (Neptune). Our house is two trees up!
Finally, since I can't finish any day of learning with out some art strewn in "A" made two solar systems. The first is chalk around circles to give it almost a eclipse look. The second is a spattered paint solar system. I walked to make planets to go on the splattered paint but "A" was anxious to use his space stickers.


  1. Thanks for linking up to Outdoor Play again this week! Love to see your ideas!

  2. Wow! This is awesome - so many great ideas.
    Thanks for linking up and sharing on the Smart Summer Challenge.

  3. I hope you don't mind, Sarah, but I shared this link with my Facebook fans. I just love these ideas!! Hopefully you got a little extra traffic.

  4. Thank you! I love traffic ;0)

  5. Hey I was just surfing for co-op ideas on the Solar System and found your blog. GREAT ideas here! Thanks!