We started Unit 4.0 in the Big History Project this week which means we’ve reached Threshold level 4, the formation of our solar system and planets. I had the kids tape in the Threshold 4 card into their notebooks as they arrived and then we watched Crash Course Astronomy video on Exoplanets because I wanted to make sure they realized that our solar system is not the only one with planets.
After the video we discussed how our solar system formed and I asked them what they knew about each planet. Then they did the Big History Project lesson 4.0, Planet Card Sort, and cut out the pictures of the solar system in various stages of development and tape them into their book in the proper order.
The last activity, making a flip organizer for the planets, took the longest and some kids didn’t quite finish. I got this idea from the Earth’s Place in the Universe Interactive Organizer, but I was disappointed to see they gave the planet data in miles, and the acceleration due to gravity in ft/s^2! There was no way I was handing those out, so I redid the activity in metric and changed a few of the facts, gave the mass of the planet in Earth masses so they could tell how much more or less massive the planet was compared to Earth. I also gave them blank cards with just a circle on them so they could color it in to look like one of the planets, put the name of the planet on it and then they had a sheet of planet facts they had to sort through and put the right facts on each card. I had the facts clumped together so one table had orbit radius on it, so they could actually just put those in numerical order and the one with the shortest distance from the sun must be for Mercury, etc. The other set of facts had orbital period, how long it takes for the planet to go around the sun, so again, they could put the table of facts in order, shortest period would be the Mercury, etc. I did include Pluto on the organizer because everyone loves Pluto, especially with the latest data from the New Horizon. I had left the number of moons fact empty so they had to look that up on the web or in the Solar System app by Touchpress. There was also a spot on the card for them to write at least one unique feature about the planet, for example, Venus is considered Earth’s evil twin, Saturn’s famous for its rings, Jupiter for its spot. Most kids didn’t get to this in class because we ran out of time. But when taking pictures for this post I noticed my son put Matt Damon on Mars… lol, we’re big fans of The Martian.