Monday, March 14, 2011

Making a Model Solar System!

I love teaching science!  I am fortunate that my kids love science too.  In our home school co-op, we spent several weeks learning about the solar system.  I wanted the kids to have a hands-on project to take home with them.  So here it is!

You will notice that we didn't use the same size balls I suggested.  Simply a cost thing...

Material List:
1 36" dowel rod
1 used up CD disc that you don't want anymore
Paint-- red, orange, blue, white, brown, black, green,
10 paper clips
yarn or string
9 styrofoam balls of varying sizes:
         Pluto----optional---we used a ping-pong ball!

1 balloon
glue and water
metallic gold or silver glitter
2 thumb tacks

You can skip the paper mache sun if you want to spend the extra money to buy a very large styrofoam ball for the sun.  I did this project with 7 kids, and it was way too cost-prohibited, as one large ball costs $5!  So we started by making a large sun out of paper mache.  Blow the balloon up.  Tear strips of newspaper  and dip in a mixture of 50% water and 50% Elmer's Glue.  Wrap the balloon with the paper strip, smooth down, and allow to dry.

Next, talk about each planet as you paint.

Mercury is rocky and fairly barren.  It's appearance is much like the color of our moon.  Mix some black and white paint to make gray, and paint Mercury gray.

Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system.  It has an atmosphere of swirling clouds heated by the sun.  It appears very bright in the night sky.  Paint Venus Orange/gold/brown swirled.

Earth is a beautiful green and blue.  You know what to do!

Mars appears red because of the rusty colored rock found there.  Paint Mars red.

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system.  It has a large red spot that is a hurricane-like storm that has been swirling for at least 300 years!  Jupiter has lots of swirled colors.  Paint it gold/brown/reddish pink--and don't forget the great red spot.

Saturn is known for it's beautiful rings.  Cut one of the 3" balls in half, making sure the surface where you cut is as smooth as possible.  Paint Saturn similar to Jupiter in color.  Paint the CD a brown or orange color.  Allow to dry.  When it is dry, spray with spray adhesive (or you could use Elmer's glue and smear it)  and sprinkle with gold or silver metallic glitter.  When it is dry, spray glue (or use a stronger glue) onto the flat sides of the ball.  Place the bottom of Saturn face-up, stick a tooth-pick into the center, place the CD over the center, and press the top on, holding the planet together firmly until the glue is somewhat set. 

Uranus appears to be a light blue.  Mix some blue paint with white to make a lighter blue and paint Uranus blue.

Neptune is a brilliant blue.  This is thought to be partly because of the methane in the atmosphere, but Uranus has close to the same amount of methane as Neptune but isn't as deep a blue.  Scientist are not really sure why.  Maybe another element or compound exists here that we don't know about?  Neptune is the stormiest planet in the solar system.  It has a large storm similar to Jupiter's that appears as a white swirl instead of red.

Pluto is optional.  I still love Pluto even though it has been de-classified as an actual planet.  We used a ping-pong ball (because it is cheaper!)

Now come back to your sun and paint it yellow and orange.  You might want to add some dark sun-spots for good measure! 

When your planets are dry, take paper clips and twist them in half.  Push the "U" that you now have down into the styrofoam, tie string to it, then push it in as far as it will go.  For the ping-pong ball, poke a hole with the end of a full un-broken paper clip.  Stick the tip down into the ball, then wrap the paper clip around the ball and push it into the ball until you only have a "u" left.  tie a string to the "U" and then twist it like a twist-tie so that the string won't slip off.

For the sun, You might be tempted to tie the string to the end of the balloon sticking out----don't do it!  I made that mistake...the balloon popped and shrank, and the sun slipped off and cracked.  Instead, poke 2 holes into the sun a couple of inches apart and thread a long piece of string through it, and tie it in a knot.

When you are finished, tie all of the planets on the dowel rod in order, starting with the sun.  When you have finished, tie yarn to either end of the rod.  Tie a knot in the top of the string and push a thumbtack through the knot and into the ceiling.  Repeat with the other side.

1 comment:

  1. I remember doing this the first year we homeschooled. Uh...9 years ago. Huh... Chandler may have missed out on that one. We will do this again! Yeah!


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