Earth and Space

Other planets in the solar system

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Children love to learn about the other planets. The Sun and the planets that orbit around it form the Solar System. The focus here should be on the movements, but there is plenty to engage and intrigue.

What to Prepare

  • A playground
  • large labels for each planet
  • another tabard, similarly, for the Moon
  • 2 small spherical beads on a threads suspended from a rod

What Happens During this Activity

Take them out onto the playground and let them be a planetarium and act out the orbits of the different planets around the Sun. Remind them that this is certainly not to scale.

The children can research amazing facts about the planets in our Solar System. If this research precedes the trip to the playground, then the movements should form a focus.

Beyond that, there are many other research lines that could be pursued. Children can then present their findings in any number of creative ways.

One way that works well is to divide the class into groups and give each group one planet to research. They could then present their findings as though they are a foreign correspondent reporting from that planet, telling us what it is like. They could report on the colour of the sky, the number of moons, how long the day lasts and so on. Their reports could be shared in a school assembly; filmed and put on the school website or written up for a class/school newspaper.

Here are a few snippets, to intrigue and stimulate:

Teacher Tip: If a saucepan of water was placed on the surface Mercury then the saucepan would melt!

Teacher Tip: Planets other than the Earth have moons: Jupiter has 16 moons and Saturn has at least 18!More than 1000 Earths could fit inside the giant planet, Jupiter.

Teacher Tip: Saturn is also much larger than the Earth but its day is shorter than an Earth's day because it spins round on its own axis once in less than 11 hours. (Therefore its day lasts just less than 11 hours).

Teacher Tip: A year on Saturn lasts 29.5 times longer than our year because it takes 29.5 times longer to complete its orbit of the Sun.

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