Grade: Middle
Subject: Science

#2309. Understanding the Solar System

Science, level: Middle
Posted Tue Jul 10 09:32:38 PDT 2001 by Tim Leister (
Elanco School District, New Holland, PA, USA
Materials Required: Poster Board
Activity Time: 40-80 minutes
Concepts Taught: Understanding the nine planets of the solar system

1. Begin the lesson by asking if any student can name the nine planets in the solar system in order from the sun. Discuss pneumonic devices that can be used to remember the order. To generate interest in the upcoming lesson, the teacher should show images and video of the planets taken from satellites and telescopes in space and on Earth.

2. Inform the students that there is a natural division or gap between the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars) and the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto). The teacher should initiate a student-led discussion with the students concerning important characteristics of a planet, such as: size, composition, atmospheric composition, number of moons, rings, distance from the sun, visiting satellites, eccentricity or the planet's orbit, etc.

3.The teacher should divide the class into nine different groups, with two or three students in each group being ideal. Each group should choose one of the nine planets to investigate. Direct the students to several resources, such as web sites, that contain statistical information and other images of the nine planets. Students should selectively search through information concerning their planet and take note of this information. After a predetermined amount of time, the group of students should determine the most pertinent information to compare their planet with the other eight.

4. In order to develop relationships between the many characteristics of their planet, students should create a poster that contains as the most pertinent information relative to their planet. The teacher should allow the students to use a variety of materials to make the poster. Once every group has completed their poster, each member of the group should take part in presenting it to the class.

5. The teacher will guide a student-led discussion concerning the differences between the characteristics of the inner and outer planets. Some differences between the inner and outer planets include the following: Inner Planets = small in size, made of rock, few moons, no rings, spaced close together Outer Planets = large in size, made of gas, many moons, rings, spaced far apart