Heliocentric Model of the Solar System
Earth and Space

From the very small to the very big

Classroom Activity for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Experiencing different scales.

  • To allow pupils the opportunity to visualise the really big and small.
  • To see if pupils can correctly sequence the relative sizes.
  • To introduce, or further the pupils' understanding of, powers of ten.

What to Prepare

Support sheets (see below):

  • Object sizes, copied on to card and cut out prior to the lesson
  • Object pictures, containing picture cards for pupils with lower literacy levels, again copied on to card and cut out prior to the lesson

What Happens During this Activity

This activity is designed to further pupils' understanding of the size of the universe. The written and picture cards cover the biggest and smallest objects imaginable. The idea is to use the cards according to the level and need of your class. Pupils can match and/or sequence all or some of the cards as you see fit.

Start with the whole class and discuss things which are bigger and smaller than them. Most suggestions offered by the class are likely to be of an observable size (e.g. a house, a mouse). Encourage pupils to think wider and to increase the range.

Note these suggestions on large post-it notes to allow pupils to sequence them on the board.

Next, ask the class to offer estimates of sizes for the examples that they have given. There is likely to be some confusion and discussion as to exact figures. Allow this to take place, do not shut down the discussion.

This whole class debating should be no more than 10 to 15 minutes.

Now divide the pupils into groups of 3 or 4. Each group should be given a pack of cards to sort. As mentioned above there is a variety of levels of cards to best meet the needs of each group of pupils. You may decide there are too many, if so just leave some out. You also need to know about the maths level of the pupils before deciding whether to include the assigning of powers of ten.

Your time frame will depend on what you decided to include, but no more than 20 minutes should be spent on this part of the activity.

Finally draw the class back together and agree a correct sequence. You may wish them to record some key sizes.


Download the support sheet / student worksheet for this activity.

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