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Solar System: Sixth Grade through eighth Grade

  • Moon Map Jigsaw

    Using the large Lick Observatory Atlas of the Moon, a photographic survey on 50, 2x2-foot sheets, students can assemble a moon image like a large jigsaw puzzle.
    Submitted By: Sten Odenwald, Holy Redeemer Elementary/Middle School Astronomy Club
  • Moon Features Up Close

    30 images of different parts of the moon are distributed to students. They classify the formations they see and compare and contrast different lunar geological features.
    Submitted By: Sten Odenwald, Holy Redeemer Elementary/Middle School Astronomy Club
  • Relative Sizes of Things

    Students create a scale model of the solar system using everything from a basketball (for the sun) to M&Ms and seeds representing the approximate sizes of the planets. Students can walk through the solar system telling what they know about each object. An interesting addition to this is construction of a model milky way showing distances to some of the stars and clusters we see in the night sky.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Space Art

    Students are given many different Hubble Space Telescope photos, and encouraged to create their own space art using the archetypes they find for nebulae, planets, stars and galaxies.
    Submitted By: Sten Odenwald, Holy Redeemer Elementary/Middle School Astronomy Club
  • Watching the Sun on the Internet

    Students visit several web sites where they can see what the sun and earth look like right now in real time.
    Submitted By: Sten Odenwald, Holy Redeemer Elementary/Middle School Astronomy Club
  • Chocolate Pudding Craters

    Students fill aluminum trays with chocolate pudding then sprinkle with powered sugar. Gum drops or chocolate kisses are then dropped into the mix resulting in craters with powered sugar ejecta. Students draw what they see and compare with images of cratered bodies in our solar system. The lunar crater, Tycho makes a great comparison object.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Stanford Solar Center Spectrometer and Gas Tube Observations

    Similar to Atomic Fingerprints and Bar Codes activity. Students construct their own spectrometers from Stanford Solar Center kits. These spectrometers have scales showing wavelengths in angstroms. Students calibrate their spectrometers and are then able to accurately draw emission spectra from different gas glow tubes. Once it is clear that different gasses have different spectral signatures, students are challenged to figure out which gas tube is being used from its spectrum.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Quiz Show Game

    This game generates a lot of energy and enthusiasm! Students divide into teams. Each team picks a name. Then the club leader asks a series of questions on astronomy topics they have already covered. Teams get points for correct answers. A variation on this is having the teams make up their own questions. Additionally, teams can be supplied with text on astronomy as references. (Students love to hum the "Jeopardy" quiz show theme and make "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" jokes while the other teams are working on their answers).
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Solar System Models out of Styrofoam Balls

    Kits of styrofoam balls for solar system simulations, can be purchased through Edmund Scientific Company. Students can color the balls based on their knowledge of solar system objects (from Voyager, HST, etc, images) and assemble their solar system with wire.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Solar System Travel Brochures

    After learning about the solar system, students are asked to make a tri-fold travel brochure of their favorite solar system body. The brochures are sales documents enticing people to go there for vacation. Kids can be given pictures of solar system objects to paste into their brochures. Then they stand up and present their brochures to the class.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Detecting Infrared Light

    Astronomers peer into the infrared to see molecular lines in atmospheres and stars as well as interstellar dust and protoplanetary disks. Students explore infrared light by aiming a TV remote control at a solar cell (e.g. from Radio Shack or Edmunds Scientific) attached to the input port of a small speaker. Solar cells are sensitive in the near IR so this becomes a cheap IR detector.
    Submitted By: Lou Mayo, Sligo Creek Elementary Astronomy Club
  • Space Exploration Activity

    In this activity, the participants will observe a "new planet" using simulations of a ground-based telescope, a space-based telescope, a "fly-by" mission, an orbiter mission, and a lander mission.
       Instructions inside:

    Space Exploration Activity.doc Size: 27Kb

    Submitted By: Dorian Janney, Watkins Mill High School Astronomy Club
  • Learn the Phases of the Moon

    In this activity students will learn to identify the phases of the moon and to place them in correct order.

      -    Images of the moon in its various phases: Full, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent, new, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous.
      -    Diagram showing how the moon phases correspond to the position of the moon, sun and Earth.
      -    Both of the above can be found in many textbooks or there are many very nice images of the moon on NASA websites that show the phases very nicely.


    Explain the phases of the moon to the students using the diagram to show how the terminator of the moon always moves across the face of the moon from west to east. Point out that the bright side of the moon is always the one closest to the sun. Show them on the diagram why this is true. I like to use students in the positions of the sun, Earth and moon to show the relative motions and how the moon always has the same side facing the Earth. One student is the sun, another represents the Earth and moves around the "sun" while another walks around the "Earth" being careful to keep the same shoulder facing toward "Earth." If needed the "sun" can hold a flashlight and the lights in the classroom can be turned off to help show how the light from the sun would illuminate the moon. There may be a few that need this extra step in order to visualize and understand the events.

    Be prepared to explain why there is not a solar and lunar eclipse each month! Someone will ask! There are also diagrams available that nicely show the angles of the orbits of the moon and Earth relative to the sun.

    To check for understanding have the students place the images of the moon in correct order from new moon through full moon. Ask them to determine the position of the moon relative to the Earth and sun at each phase. They may need to use the diagram to do this part as many cannot visualize the relative positions mentally.
    Submitted By: Neta Apple, Chouteau High School
  • Tips for Holding a Viewing Night

    I have one online article that may be of interest to ASAC newsgroup members. It is a general introduction and set of suggestions entitled "Tips for holding a viewing night" at:
    Submitted By: Rob Hollow, CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility
  • Impact Craters

    Simulate impact craters in the classroom.
    Fill a baking dish 3/4 full with white flour. Level the surface. Cover the flour with a thin layer of brown sugar so that the entire surface is now brown.
    Stand back and gently hrow marbles at the dish and watch the resulting craters and rays form.
    Submitted By: Jeff Charbonneau, Zillah High School
  • Solar System Stroll

    This activity is a good excercise in scale (1 billionth) and will need a great deal of field space. I picked this activity up in a MESSENGER workshop. The experience put the perspective of the solar system in the manner of meters. It will take about two fifty minute sessions.

    Materials- 10 meter sticks, poster size paper, tape, 10 pylons and markers

    Procedure- divide the club into ten different groups and have them research the sun and the nine planets. On the poster draw the planet, write the planet name or sun, and put some information about the celestial body. Then tape this sign on a meter stick. Then walking at each of these distances below, put a pylon down and place the sign in the pylon. Have each group tell about thier celestial body.

    Sun to Mercury (6 paces)
    Mercury to Venus (5 paces)
    Venus to Earth (4 paces)
    Earth to Mars (8 paces)
    Mars to Jupiter (55 Paces)
    Jupiter to Saturn (65 paces)
    Saturn of Uranus (144 paces)
    Uranus to Neptune (163 paces)
    Neptune to Pluto (142 paces)

    Pluto is a bit too far, so if you get to Saturn, students will get a good idea of the expanse of the Solar System.

    As an evaluation, I pull out a poster of the solar system and students point out the flaws in the representation. Email me with any questions at
    Submitted By: Walter Charuba, Brownell Middle School
  • Astronomy Screensaver

    It's a multi-facetted application that allows you to keep abreast of status reports, news and announcements of events taking place at ESA Science and the most recent near-real-time images from SOHO. I don't know of a NASA equivalent but many of the projects are joint with NASA. For those interested in Solar observations, there's less chance of missing exciting solar storms (like the one that's been going on for the last few days) because the screensaver updates its images whenever you're online.
    Download it here:
    Submitted By: Mike Cripps, Neatherd High School Astronomy Club
  • Mars Exploration Rover Activity

    BotBall is a national competition of Middle and High Schools (although just about any group of kids can compete) to build fully autonomous robots out of essentially very high end Lego Mindstorm kits. These robots move around a playing field sensing distance, heat, light, and touch to accomplish tasks with ping pong balls.....hence the name.

    I borrowed a kit from the high school and brought it to our club meeting. We got onto the MER web site and talked about Mars and the rovers. We then outlined what kinds of things a rover would need to do(science objectives) and what hardware it would have to have to do it(e.g. power source, communications system, cameras, etc.). Then I divided the club into three groups and let them go at the kit. We dismissed with the autonomous part of the robots since that requires programming in a form of C++ language - quite a bit beyond these students. But putting together the parts was definitely a hit. We left the partially assembled robots for next week.

    I think I will give them a list of tasks the rover will have to perform and subsystems that must be present. In addition, we will probably start the next club with a short video on Mars. When they are finished, I will have the teams present their rovers and suggest that the school put them in a show case (with a picture of the Martian surface in the background).

    Though we used the BotBall kits, I suspect that just about any Lego kit could work. Wheels and joints help but could be assembled from other things. Motors are cool but not required.
    Submitted By: Sligo Creek Astronomy Club
  • Solar System "Walk-Through" PowerPoint Presentation

    This is a presentation that I created on solar system objects that is sutable for students in elementary and middle-school. It contains images and information about the Sun, the nine planets, the Asteroid Belt, and comets.

    Microsoft Power Point

    Our Solar System.ppt Size: 1.43Mb

    Submitted By: Dorian Janney, Watkins Mill High School Astronomy Club
  • The Moon PowerPoint presentation

    This is a PowerPoint presentation that I created for elementary and middle school students to teach them some of the basic concepts related to our moon.

    Microsoft Power Point

    The Moon.ppt Size: 130Kb

    Submitted By: Dorian Janney, Watkins Mill High School Astronomy Club
  • Outreach

    Most of the Orangevale Open Astronomy Club's activities focus on Outreach to local schools and to local organizations that want to hold a Star Party. We work with our local amateur group, Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society (SVAS). Our school has a ten inch Orion dobsonian and several binoculars, and our club members have about four telescopes, all together. Schools and organizations request Star Parties from SVAS, who then schedules the events.

    Before each event we spend some time at school talking about the best targets for the upcoming evening and the kinds of things we will tell the Party-goers. We spend some time with Starry Night software and a large projector picking targets that will appeal to the general public. Then we discuss typical misconceptions that the public might have and the clearest, simplest way to communicate a scientific understanding.

    My students also participate in the SVAS annual Astronomy Day at a local park. We've made demonstratio ns, posters, PowerPoint presentations and projects that we show at the events. Usually these presentations coordinate with California State Standards. We have a sun filter for our big telescope and make it available during the day of these events.

    Submitted By: Jim Carvalho, Orangevale Open K-8 School
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