Envisioning the solar system can be difficult if you consider its vastness and the placement of the planets and moons in it. While books, pictures and online resources offer many visuals to help with the process, a 3-D model of the solar system can put things in perspective. You can assemble your own 3-D solar system project in many ways, often with a collection of basic household items.
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A quick trip to the grocery store can yield all of the items you need for a scale representation of the solar system. Begin with a large pumpkin for the sun. Next, use a coffee bean for Mercury, a large blueberry or raspberry for Venus, a cherry for Earth and a pea for Mars. Jupiter can be represented by a grapefruit, Saturn by an orange, Uranus by a kiwi and Neptune by a peach or nectarine. As you browse the produce section of your local market, consider comparable substitutions for some of these items. Make the project a fun guessing game by placing all of the fruits into a basket and having children guess which planet corresponds to each item.
Coloured clay is an easy way to represent both the size and appearance of the various planets. Each clay ball can be coloured accordingly. Depending on the level of accuracy you're interested in, you can roughly blend colours--for example, a swirl of blue, green and white for Earth--or make things more accurate, for example, by pressing continent-shaped pieces of green clay onto a blue sphere. To keep your clay planets on the right scale, begin with a sun that is 110cm in diameter. On this scale, Mercury will be 0.4cm, Venus and Earth will be 1cm, Mars will be 0.5cm, Jupiter 11.4cm, Saturn 9.6cm, Uranus 4.1cm and Neptune 4cm.
After assembling your representative items for the solar system model, find various ways to display the finished project. Fruit and other edible items can hang from the ceiling. Wrap each piece in a small net made from clean fishing twine or elastic. To display clay or more stable items such as styrofoam balls, paint a piece of plywood black and dot it with stars using a silver marker or paint. Place eight nails in the plywood so that they are pointing upward. Stick a planet onto the point of each nail.
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