These activities will help students understand where the sun is in the solar system and how big the earth, moon, and sun are.
Main Curriculum Tie:
Science - 3rd Grade
Standard 1 Objective 1
Describe the appearance of Earth and the moon.
For each group
- Clear glass or beaker
For each student
- White boards
- Rubbing alcohol
- Teaspoon oil
- Moon Boxes: clay,
books, sun, moon, Earth
orbit, Styrofoam ball
three inches in diameter,
flashlight, and hand lens
or magnifying glass
- White paper
- 5 1/2 yds. of yarn
- Sidewalk chalk
- Earth and Moon
- The Moon Book, by Gail Gibbons; ISBN 0613128877
- Handshake in Space, by Sheri Tan; ISBN 1568995350
- One Giant Leap, by Dana Meachen Rau; ISBN 0613515765
- What the Moon is Like, by Franklyn M. Branley; ISBN 0064451852
Background For Teachers:
A star is a ball of hot, burning gases. The sun is the closest star to
Earth (about 150,000,000 km/93,000,000 miles) away. Therefore, it
looks bigger and brighter to those on Earth than other stars.
Earth spins on an imaginary line called an axis. A complete rotation
takes about 24 hours (one day). The part of Earth facing the sun has
daylight; the part facing away from the sun has night.
Earth revolves around the sun as it rotates on its axis.
One complete orbit, or revolution, of Earth around the sun takes
about 365 days (one year). It actually takes 365 1/4 (365.25) days to revolve
around the sun. One-fourth of a day is equal to six hours. If you take a
24 hour day and divide it by six, you get four. Therefore, and extra day
is added to the calendar every four years. Every fourth year is a leap year,
which has 366 days.
The moon’s diameter is about one-fourth that of Earth’s.
Intended Learning Outcomes:
3. Understand Science Concepts and Principles
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning
Invitation to Learn
Pass out white boards and markers to each student. Have the students
draw what they think exists in space. Walk around the room and assess
each drawing. Make a list on the chalkboard of all the different
responses. Students erase boards and draw what they think is in the
center of our solar system. Again, walk around the room and make
assessments. Discuss. Students erase boards and draw what else is out
there besides Earth, the moon, and stars. Discuss.
Where is the sun located in the solar system?
- Pass out a beaker or clear glass to each group.
- Fill the beaker half full with water.
- Tilt the beaker slightly. Gently fill the beaker with rubbing
alcohol. The alcohol is less dense than the water and therefore
will float on the surface of the water. Slowly add a teaspoon of
oil to the beaker. The oil will form spheres where the water and
- Questions to ask and discuss: What motion does Earth go through
once a year? (It revolves around the sun once every year) Since
Earth revolves around the sun, is Earth or the sun the center of the
solar system? (Sun.) If the oil spheres represent the planets in the
solar system, where would the sun be located? (In the center of
the beaker.) How many planets are in our solar system? (Nine.)
Like Earth, all the planets revolve around the sun. Do you think
it takes all the planets one year (365 days) to make this journey?
How big is Earth, moon, and sun?
- Ask students to estimate the diameter of Earth, sun, and moon.
- Explain to the students that you are going to help them to
understand the sizes of Earth, sun, and moon by making a “scale
model;” a model that will be smaller than the real thing, but that
will maintain the size relationship between the three objects.
- Using the Earth and Moon Diagram, show them a circle
of paper that is 4"(10 cm) in diameter. This will represent Earth.
Now, ask them how big a paper circle you need to represent the
moon. Have the students cut out a circle the size they think the
moon should be and compare their estimates.
- Give them the approximate diameters of the real moon and Earth.
moon, about 2,000 miles (3,250 km)
Earth, about 8,000 miles (13,000 km)
Ask again, “For a 4" paper Earth, how big should we make our
paper moon?” If they don’t see the relationship, point out that
2,000 miles is one-fourth as big as 8,000 miles. Therefore, the
paper moon should be 1" (2.5 cm) in diameter.
- Cut out a paper moon of that size.
- Have students estimate how big to make the sun before reviewing
the size of the actual sun.
- Approximate diameter of the real sun.
sun, about 800,000 miles (1,300,000 km)
Have them change their estimates based on this information.
- How many times bigger will the paper sun need to be than the
paper moon of 1"?
800,000 divided by 2,000
is the same as
800 divided by 2 = 400
So....if your paper moon is 1", the paper sun will be 400" (1,000
400" divided by 36" gives you about 11 yards
You don’t have paper big enough to make that circle! Instead, use
5 1/2 yards of string to draw an 11 yard circle with chalk on the
playground. Tie one end of the string to a piece of chalk. Have
another student hold the other end. The student with the chalk
will pull the string tight and draw a circle on the cement. Then,
trace the paper Earth and the paper moon with chalk for
- Pass out gray or white Styrofoam balls and hand lens to each
group. Have students make observations. Explain to the students
this represents the moon. The moon is a gray sphere covered with
many craters. Read What the Moon Is Like by Franklyn M.
Branley. Discuss what the moon is like.
- Color, cut out, and assemble ABC Moon Book (pdf) created by
Susan Tenhor and Colleen Davis.
- Conduct the same experiment at home (water, rubbing alcohol,
- Check out a moon box to share with family.
How many people have walked on the moon? (Twelve astronauts
have walked on the moon, the last in 1972.)
Here are the names of those astronauts listed chronologically by the
date of their walk.
|July 20, 1969
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
|Nov. 19, 1969
Charles (Pete) Conrad
|Feb. 5, 1971
|July 30, 1971
|Apr. 21-23, 1971
|Dec. 11-13, 1972
- Have students use clay from their moon boxes and make a scale
model of Earth and the moon. (Remember, the moon is 1/4 the
size of Earth.)
- Pass out white boards again and have them draw answers to the
same questions asked at the beginning of the lesson.
Created Date :
Sep 30 2004 12:00 PM