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Kids Homework Project: Building Model of the Solar System

Updated February 21, 2017

The Earth's solar system is made up of the sun and the eight planets that orbit it, which include Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune (many are debating whether Pluto counts as the ninth planet). The largest in size is Jupiter, which is 318 times the size of the Earth and has 63 moons, and the smallest (if you count it) is Pluto, which is smaller than the Earth's moon. Building a model of the solar system can be an effective hands-on approach to help elementary students learn about it.

Calculations

Math skills play an important part in building a model of the solar system because students need to figure out planets' distance from the sun and their diameters in order to build a scaled model of the solar system. Start by calculating the planets' size compared to the sun. Divide the sun's diameter by those of the different planets. You can use charts found at the website called "Bringing the Solar System Down to Earth" for diameter and distance calculations. Once you have determined the diameters, calculate scaled-down diameters, which will be in millimetres. Start by assigning the number of one meter to the sun. Next use the numbers that you calculated for the planets' size compared to the sun, dividing them by 1,000.

Next figure out the distance of the planets to the sun using astronomical units (AU), putting them on a separate chart. You will convert the distance of the planets from the sun, in millions of miles, to AU. Do this by dividing the planets' distance from the sun by the number 93 million. After doing this, create a scaled-down model of distance in millimetres from the AU figure that you get. First assign the value of 1,000 millimetres, or one meter, to the sun. Then take the numbers that you got from the first distance calculations and multiply them by 100.

Basic Model

When you are creating a model at home to learn more about the planets, use a meter stick to measure the size of the planets and sun and the distance of the planets from the sun. Take your charts with you as a reference guide. You can do it outside and use materials such as straw, rocks or twigs. Use these materials to create an outline of the planets and the sun, using the diameter calculations as a guide. When you are creating the model, make sure that the sun is at one end, and the planets are placed in order, based on their distances from the sun. Use the scaled-down calculations of distances, following them when you are deciding where to place the planets.