Note to teachers- This page is linked to from both the 8th grade and the high school page- make sure the activity is appropriate for your level and standards before you do it!

The concept map for the unit on the Solar System created by the 3/21/13 DAIT team-

lesson plan from the 3/21/13 DAIT team- the video Sun is a Star video.pngthe article Nat Geo Sun article
The graphic to start the lesson

The writing template:

More from the DAIT team:

Dave's scaled planet project-
Examples of Dave Z.s scaled planet project.

Philip has kids make a scale model of Earth and Moon including distance!
He uses the following: Moon diameter- 4000 km, Earth diameter- 13000km, distance- 400000 km. The simple process for scaling: step 1- change the units, step 2 divide by 10s, step 3- if that doesn't work try to divide or multiply by 2.

Make a book about the Universe

Listen to the Radiolab podcast "When it Went Dark" radiolab- dark side

A solar system model that might fit in your school peppercorn earth

The book "A Million Kids" can help make sense of big numbers.
Use styrofoam balls on craft sticks with a bright light (the Sun works outside) to model phases of the Moon.
Discovery Channel "95 Worlds and counting"

Songs from They Might Be Giants "Here Comes Science" can be found on YouTube- Shooting Star, Planets, and 2 versions of the Sun song.

iPad Apps- Moon Globe, Mars Globe, Solar Walk, Exoplanet, GoSkyWatch, Orbit Simulator, Wonders, Sky View free, Solar System.

The Imax movie "Cosmic Voyage" is great for scale.

Invite some local astronomers to your school!

Bob Victor is a retired astronomer from the Abram's Planetarium and LOVES to come set up at school sites including for daytime viewing of the Moon and sometimes Venus- his number is - (760)325-9633 and his email is
robert victor ‎[]‎

Here is a lab to show students how large numbers (like the stars in a galaxy) are estimated. Many students believe that they are actually counted! Use broken ceiling tiles you can ask your custodian for. Create counting grids by copying a 10cm X10 cm grid on transparencies.

Some websites on scale;

powers of Ten Florida State Site another power of ten site

Make a a solar system

Gravity and a good connection to astronomy. Make a model of an orbiting body like what you find at;
You can use a pvc pipe, fishing line, rubber cork, and washers for cheap materials. Simplify the math- at 8th grade you are trying to teach how gravity keeps an abject in orbit. you can change the variables of mass and radius of orbit/

A wesite with links to lots of free astronomy resources- Johannes kepler institute
A good formative assessment on structure and scale.
Here is a graph created by Rich magner for use in the pennies radioactivity lab

Here are some of Rich's powerpoints- Please do not use powerpoints to numb or handcramp your students into submission! There should be many questions and opportunities for interaction in a good powerpoint presentation.Limit the amount of text and keep it concise. Otherwisw it is just bad teaching.

Use a fan to simulate solar wind that blows light particles (yarn, hole punches, straws)to the outer solar system but leaves dense particles (pennies, pebbles, nails) in the inner solar system

Kathy Bs gravity activity

Kathy B- activity to compare Moon and Earth- You could adapt this to compare other planets and moons

ENSI- timeline activity timeline activity
Eli R- find meteorites activity at- micrometorites

Put a big 15 billion year (1m = 1 by) timeline around the room and have kids add post-its where they think events go this will give you an idea of prior knowledge then fix it and
add to it as the year goes on.

Marc B- second life actvitity on early earth

Crater lab- fill pans with flour and use a thin cocoa layer for contrast. Drop marbles and steel balls. Experiment with different masses, heights, and angles. Also use photos to compare the cratering on different parts of the moon with different ages.

Build galaxy models. (a box of salt can be used outdoors to build a large spiral galaxy- smaller amounts of salt on black lab benches can make smaller models). Use galaxy photos to classify at

Marc- galactic driver’s license activity-with postcard
Mark B- Sun Number 1
Create your own star by Tersea H-