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Solar System Lesson Plans

Sean Said:

Teaching the solar system in Kindergarten?

We Answered:

Try this Dr. Jean activity.

Sara Said:

Teachers and teacher assistants?

We Answered: has very good thematic units.

Dorothy Said:

Can somebody help me I need a simple lesson plan on the solar system. I tried several sights that i dont like?

We Answered:

In order to answer your question, we'd need to know what grade you teach, and what content information you want to emphasize. More info, please!

Curtis Said:

Doing a 1 hour lesson on the planets in our solar system which one of these two lessons would work best?

We Answered:

Given only 1 hour, I'd select lesson number 1. However, you need to make a correction to it. Evidently Crayola isn't aware that there are only 8 recognized planets. You may or may not have the opportunity to discuss the concept of a dwarf planet with the class so just concentrate on the 8 major planets.…

Susan Said:

If Humans can't overcome "Global Warming", How can we expect to be able to colonize another planet?

We Answered:

Hi Zarathustra,

Some very interesting and thought-provoking points you raise.

Overcoming Global Warming
We do have the capability to overcome global warming and in a relatively short period of time. It’s not a lack technology or comprehension that’s the stumbling block but a lack of will-power.

Schemes such as emissions trading, carbon taxes, alternative fuels etc can go some way to alleviating the problem, but at best all they can do is to delay the inevitable. If we really want to overcome global warming then we must reduce our emissions to a naturally sustainable level – and this isn’t something that can happen.

Even with the best will in the world, there are too many people alive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that isn’t going to have some impact. The fact that we breathe and fart cancels out all the natural sequestration processes and adapting to a zero emissions lifestyle would be quite impossible.

We have to accept that humans will always produce more greenhouse gases than nature can handle (short of some disaster wiping out most of the species). Whilst we can go some way to reducing our emissions, it’s inevitable that we will either have to adapt to the consequences or will have to physically intervene with the climate.

Numerous schemes have been proposed that would adapt our climate, generically such schemes are known as geoengineering or climate engineering. There are two main approaches, one involves reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches us and the other involves reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

The former includes schemes such as cloud seeding, releasing cooling gases into the atmosphere and shading Earth from sunlight. The latter includes using marine lifeforms to sequester CO2 and extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

There’s more about these and other schemes in an answer I provided some time ago…

For the time being this remains very much in the realms of science fiction. There is no other body in the solar system that is capable of being terraformed to a point that could provide an environment suitable for human habitation.

A possible contender could be Mars and the first stage would be to create an atmosphere capable of supporting life. The problem in doing this is that the atmosphere would be stripped from the planet by solar winds before it had time to develop.

Another problem is that the planet itself would need to generate the atmosphere, this is how Earth comes to have it’s atmosphere. We couldn’t introduce biomass in order to create the atmosphere as this in itself would require a pre-existing atmosphere in order to survive – the atmosphere needs to come first.

The nearest we could hope to achieve on any other planet in the solar system is to construct environmentally controlled domed cities.

There is another place that may offer a possible habitat for humans and that’s Jupiter’s innermost moon. Io is the most geologically active place in the solar system, the massive gravitational kick the moon receives from Jupiter and the alignment with Callisto, Ganymede and Europa actually distorts the shape of the planet generating massive amounts of internal heat through friction.

The chemical composition of Io together with mass, gravity, proximity to Jupiter etc means that humans could survive there but again, would need to be in hermetically sealed domes to keep out the poisonous acidic atmosphere. It would also be useful to be protected against to 250km high volcanic fountains of sulphurous compounds.

The alternative is to look beyond the solar system, we may find something suitable in Alpha Centauri – our next door neighbour in terms of solar systems. The nearest star to Earth besides our own Sun is Proxima Centauri but this is 40 quadrillion metres away, the Space Shuttle has a maximum velocity of 8,000 metres per second so would take 160,000 years to get there. Even at the speed of light it’s still more than 4 years away.

Travelling at the speed of light
Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity determines that nothing can ever travel at or beyond the speed of light and this is because mass isn’t a constant. As velocity increases so too does mass and it tends to infinity at the speed of light; travelling at the speed of light would therefore require infinite energy to propel infinite mass.

However, there’s no reason, given the correct conditions, why something can’t travel at close to the speed of light. Phenomenal amounts of energy would be required and pretty much everything would be atomically decomposed, so it’s perhaps not something that humans should try.

It’s also feasible that we could arrive at a destination faster than light, not by travelling faster than light but by warping space, effectively taking a short-cut.

There is one way around this but it’s kind of cheating. Whilst we can’t travel at the speed of light we can harness light itself to do the ‘travelling’ for us. Not so much transporting matter from A to B but transmitting information, the information that is needed to move something between two points – a kind of teleportation. It is feasible but at present it’s not practical.

Imagine mapping an object at the atomic level, let’s say a molecule of calcium carbonate (chalk / limestone). The molecule consists of one calcium, one carbon and three oxygen atoms. The information would be digitally encoded and transmitted using pulses of light. At the receiving end the pulses would be converted back into the instructions necessary to construct a calcium carbonate molecule.

Now scale this up so that instead of an atomic map of a single molecule it’s an atomic map of a human being. Effectively you’re creating an atomic level magnetic resonance image of an entire human body. The mapping information could be transmitted at the speed of light and the human could be atomically reconstructed at the other end.

One interesting aspect of this approach is that you’re not actually transporting the person from A to B, you’re simply recreating them, the original would still remain (unless it were disassembled).

Currently there are three drawbacks. One is the ability to accurately map a human being at the atomic level, another is the quantity of data that would need to be transmitted – roughly 108 xonabytes (108 billion, billion gigabytes) and the third is the speed at which the atomic reconstruction would take place. Even if the reconstruction involved a billion simultaneous operations each positioning a billion atoms a second it would take over 100 billion seconds to reconstruct. By the time you’d been reconstructed at your destination your original form would have died of old age and would have moved on by about 100 generations.

That’s enough numbers. I’m off to watch the football.

Albert Said:

Want websites with lesson plan activities-experiments and models on the following :-?

We Answered:

Try BrainPop

Martha Said:

How to build a Solar System model?

We Answered:

you can make one on your computer by getting an application free here:…

or do this for a real one:


(All of these materials can be found at a local craft store)

1 big styrofoam ball for the sun (about 8 inches in diameter).
9 smaller styrofoam balls of different sizes to match the planets.
10 wooden dowels (read the instructions below to determine what size).
1 box (about 3 x 3 x 3 feet).
black thread.
clay (a small amount).
paint (black for the dowels and box; yellow for the sun & stars; other colors for the planets).
construction paper (red, white, or yellow for rings around planets).
1 cork.

1. First, find a good box. It should be big enough inside to hold 9 planets revolving around the sun.

2. Tape the box shut on three sides, leaving one side open. Remove the flaps of the box from the side that is open.

3. Use black paint or construction paper to cover the inside of the box. This will be the universe. Paint small yellow or white stars as a background for your universe.

4. Get styrofoam balls for the sun and planets. Make sure the sizes are proportional to the real solar system, but on a much smaller scale. Paint the styrofoam sun yellow. Paint the planets whatever color you want, but try to remember the color of real planets (blue for Earth, red for Mars, etc.).

5. Paint all of the dowels black, this way they will blend in with the background of the universe box.

6. Cut 2 dowels, a short one and a long one, and poke them into the cork. Use a nail to make the holes if the cork is too tough. Glue the dowels so they stay in better. It should look like this:

7. Make sure the total length is long enough to fit snugly inside the box and leave about 2 inches on the top dowel so it sticks through the box. By having this stick through the top, you can turn the dowel and make your planets rotate around the sun.

8. Now, slide the sun up through the bottom, longer end of the dowel.

9. Poke a hole through the top of the box. From the inside of the box, slide the top end of the dowel through the hole. Secure the bottom of the dowel with clay. Glue the clay to the box if it moves around too much. So far, it should look like this:

10. Now you're ready to insert the planets. Cut the remaining 9 dowels at different lengths. These will be the distance from the sun. If you make the lengths equal, all the planets will crash into each other.

11. Insert all 9 dowels into the cork, so they form a "pinwheel." Glue the dowels for a stronger hold. Here's what it would look like from the top:

12. Take the thread and tie it on the end of these "pinwheel" dowels. Tie the other end of the thread to a pin. Poke the pin into the styrofoam planets. Make sure to place the planets in the correct order based on distance from the sun. It should now look something like the picture below. (Note: In these pictures the dowels are white so you can see them, but your dowels are supposed to be painted black).

13. Cut construction paper to make rings around the planets that need them. Secure the rings to the planets with pins or glue.

14. By twisting the dowel that is sticking out through the top of the box, you can bring your solar system to life.

to help you scale your project I'v attached a link:…

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