Scaling the Solar System

nves_vid_nitrate_thumb.jpg.resize.710x399A common question for the teaching of science is how to make the abstract more “real world” and concrete. It’s easy to assume that what’s concrete to the science teacher is concrete to the student. However, when students actually work with particular content – the solar system, for example – concepts may become overwhelming in size and scope to be readily understood.

A video segment from Teaching Earth and Space Science shows how teacher Mark Goldner uses a classroom scaling activity to give eighth-grade students a physical feel for the vast spatial scale of the solar system. Goldner has his students approximate the size of the planets and the sun using familiar objects. For example, Earth is represented by a peppercorn and the sun by an 8-inch beach ball. Get ideas from Goldner as he helps his class work out the scale of the model and teaches them to think about both the sizes and distances between the planets in the solar system.  Support materials include background essay, discussion questions and standards. WATCH.

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