Monday, 8 November 2010

Playground planets

Our latest Earthlearningidea is ´Playground planets´. The activity models the relative sizes of the planets and their distances from the Sun. By doing this activity, pupils can:
• list the correct order of the planets from the Sun;
• identify the relative sizes of the planets and the Sun using scaled models;
• place the planets at the correct scaled distances from the Sun;
• appreciate the enormous distances involved and the enormous size of the Sun relative to the planets.
This is one of only three activities in our ´Earth in Space´ category. Can you contribute others? Post a comment on this blog or email us.


Charlie said...

I thought I would drop you a quick note about how I got on with this.
The first half (planet models) was excellent. I used plasticine models and we had a massive "Wow" when I went and got the sun from the prep room. And lots of interesting questions from the kids on exo planets, asteroid belts etc. Unfortunately, it was raining so I couldn´t do the second bit in the playground.

I added two extensions to the demonstration that worked really well and gave the kids something to think about:

1. What does the Sun look like from each of the planets. I got this idea from Brian Cox's Solar System programme. I got the pupils to look at the model sun (1.4mm across) from different planet positions to give them
an idea of what the sun would look like. This would have worked much better on an outdoor 30m or 60m solar system. But it shows them that pretty quickly the sun really does just look like a bight star.

2. Where is the next star? This idea came from the head of science. I asked the kids, given the solar system has a radius of 3m where would the next star be. All kind of answers came out so really got them thinking. It turns out that the nearest star Proxima Centuri is 4x10^16m away. Which on the scale we were using is 40Km.
I then got them to think how little stuff there was out there and how much empty space and got them to think about how far the next habitable planet might be away and how long it would take us to get there. I then turned it around to the importance of us looking after the Earth.

Thanks again for this Earthlearningidea. I will definitely be using it as a regular demo in my teaching career.

Steve said...

This is a most useful response to playground planets.  The idea of asking where the nearest star after the sun would be is  excellent. I will definitely use it in my road show.

(Steve wrote the original activity for Earthlearningidea)