Academy Curricular Exchange
Columbia Education Center

TITLE:    Bringing the Solar System to Life

AUTHOR:    Sally Spooner, Sunset Elementary School, Cody, Wyoming

GRADE LEVEL/SUBJECT:   2-3       Science  

OVERVIEW:  The Solar System is a very abstract concept for
primary age children.  This activity was designed to show children
the ideas of "revolution" and "rotation".

PURPOSE:  This Science activity, part of a unit on the Solar
System, uses role playing to demonstrate the universe and its
connection to the sun.


As a result of this activity, students will be able to:

1.  Make models to represent the planets in comparative size.

2.  Use their models to demonstrate revolution and rotation of the
planets around the sun.

3.  Give definitions of "revolution", "rotation", and "orbit".

     one yellow punch ball
     nine balloons of different colors
     chalk or string to mark orbits
     resource material to check orbits of the nine planets

1.  Children will blow up a yellow punch ball to its fullest and
balloons of nine different colors to sizes representing the nine

2.  Take the class outside or go into the gym inside.   Have nine
paths marked on ground or floor with string or chalk.

3.  Have one student hold each balloon.  Another student will hold
the yellow punch ball which represents the sun.

4.  The "sun" stands in the middle of a circle.  The other children
take their places on the marked paths.  Teacher will need to give
each child the name of his/her planet and direct him/her to the
correct place.

5.  Begin the experiment by having children walk in their path or
"orbit" around the sun.  Stress that the planets never leave their
own orbits.  This travel around the sun is called "revolution".  This
term should now be introduced.

6.  After the children have orbited the sun once, bring in the added
concept of "rotation".  While moving around the sun, the children
should also start to spin around like tops.  (Caution them against
becoming dizzy.)  This demonstrates "rotation".  Tell children that
it takes one year for the earth to revolve around the sun, and it
takes one day for the earth to rotate on its own axis.

7.  Point out that "rotation" or spinning on one's own axis takes
much less time than going all the way around the sun, "revolution."

8.  Give all children in the class a chance to try the experiment.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER:  After returning to the classroom, demonstrate
the principle just learned with the globe.  Let someone spin the
globe and walk around a "sun" to show "rotation" and "revolution".
For children who have trouble keeping "rotation" and "revolution"
straight, here is a tip: the middle sound of "rotation" has the
same vowel sound as "day" and it takes the earth one day to rotate.
This same type of activity can be used to show the relationship
between the moon and the earth.   Role play is an excellent way to
teach primary children and makes these abstract concepts come to life.


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