Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scale Model of the Solar System

I did this when I was in high school and even college and I still remember it after many (and I do mean many!) years ago so I believe this lesson really made an impact on me. Exploratorium’s Build a Solar System lets you put in the numbers and calculates the distances for you. When I was in college, we made the scale model as we went but for my special ed students, I did it all before class. Then we walked the model and I explained as we went. This helped put the solar system in perspective for them. You will not only need to know how far to put each “planet” but you will need to get objects that show the planets at scale size also. I also notified the administration and janitors what I was doing so they didn’t throw these items out. Once placed, I put the label of the planet by them also which helped them recognize these things. When I begin the lesson, I give the students a fact sheet that identifies the planet, the actual distance from the sun and the scale distance from the sun. The classroom holds the object for the sun and then we walk out from there. Of course before we start walking, we go over ground rules for behavior outside the classroom. My students were so intrigued by this that they stayed close to me and was totally engaged. We didn’t spend a lot of time at each planet (because you end up walking a pretty long way from the “sun” in one class period) so that is why it is important for you to plan this ahead of time. If you don’t place the planets ahead of time, at least know where you will place them when you get there so you don’t waste a lot of time. I had students help me by “looking” for the planet after telling them where I placed it. They felt like they were on a treasure hunt. The day after doing this scale model, I would have my students research different planets and then make hanging mobiles for our classroom using Styrofoam and paint. On another day the students would present their research through a poster or a PowerPoint presentation. All of these lessons helped students with all different learning styles because it is visual, auditory, and tactile-kinesthetic. This is why I think this lesson was so successful.

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