Solar System in a meter.
Activity

Solar System in a Meter

This hands-on activity allows students who are blind or visually impaired to "build" a model of the solar system showing relative distances between planets.

This is a good follow-up activity to an introduction of the solar system in which students have learned the basic structure of the solar system.  

In this activity, students will gain a better understanding of the relative distances between the planets and how much greater these distances are the farther from the Sun planets are located.

An added benefit of this activity is that students practice using the APH label paper and making labels using a Perkins Brailler.

Vocabulary:

Preparation

Prepare a strip of paper one meter long and 10 cm wide for each student.

Procedure

Introduction: Ask the students how large they think the Solar System would be if we reduced the size six trillion times?  Discuss.

In order  to build the Solar System to this scale it will fit in a meter if we include Pluto.  In this model, Pluto would be about one meter from the sun.

Students will work in groups of 2 or individually.  

  1. Have students make labels for all planets and Pluto in Braille (for braille students ) using the APH small label paper.  Print students will write the planets directly on the paper.
  2. After labels are prepared,  reminding the students that this meter represents the entire Solar System, have the students fold the paper in half.  Ask the students which planet they think will be at this fold? Discuss.
  3. Students will likely be surprised to find out that Uranus is the planet to place at the halfway mark.  Discuss  Explain that the distances increase as you go further from the Sun.  Discuss.
  4. Fold the half of the paper past Uranus in half.  Ask – What planet will go at this point?  – Neptune. 
  5. Label the far end of the paper Pluto 
  6. Fold the other end of the paper in half – This is where the Saturn label should be placed. Discuss the decreased distances between planets as we head toward the Sun.
  7. Fold in half again and label Jupiter.
  8. Fold remaining paper in half twice and then label Mars. 
  9. Ask – Why are these distances SO much smaller.
  10. Fold again and label Venus 
  11. Fit Earth between Venus and Mars
  12. Fold one last time and label Mercury – This will be essentially at the beginning of the paper.
  13. After completion of the model, discuss the relative distances.  Were students surprised? Proceed with instruction as planned. 

Helpful information as you complete this activity for the instructor: (This information will not be given to the students.)

Distance from Sun in this model (measurements are in standard units):

Variations

NGSS Standards

Middle School Space Systems

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

Many thanks to Jim Allan, Accessibility Coordinator at TSBVI (and resident Space Geek) for this idea. 

By Laura Hospitál

Collage of solar system in a meter

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