mere mention of space and the solar system causes some students to overflow
with excitement, while others immediately begin fighting back tears of
boredom. Oddly enough, the same thing happens to many teachers. The best way
to keep everyone enthused and interested in space and solar system lessons is
to put some creativity in the classroom.
One creative idea for teaching space and the solar system is to incorporate the lessons into other subjects. The following are ideas for working the lesson into more than just science:
? Math. Students can calculate their weight on other planets. This will help reinforce the planet names, teach them about the different gravities on other planets, and use math skills. Students can also divide into teams for math races. Instead of scoring points, they move their space shuttle closer to the destination planet. They can also start at Mercury and move all the way through the solar system, with the winning team being the one to get to the end first.
? Reading. Students can read stories about space or that are set in space. There are many stories, fiction and non-fiction, at every grade level that can be used.
? Writing. You can have students write poems or stories about space, the solar system, or specific planets. Creative writing could even involve writing from the perspective of someone from another planet visiting Earth for the first time.
? Art. Students can draw or paint the planets. They can also make mobiles of the solar system or space collages.
More creative ideas for teaching space and the solar system include:
? You can kick off or wrap up the space and solar system lesson with a space-themed party. For drinks, you could serve Rocket-Fuel by either making red punch or buying ready-made fruit punch, or you could serve Tang, the ?official? drink of astronauts. Astronaut ice cream and astronaut candy are readily available for purchase. You could also serve star-shaped cookies.
? Use fluorescent markers or paint to mark the stars of constellations on a bulletin board. Use string, chalk, or a light-colored marker to connect the stars into the shape of the constellation as you tell the students about it.
? A great math-related activity is to have students plot coordinates for constellations on graph paper. The teacher reads the plot points aloud, and students plot them. They finish by connecting the dots to form the constellation.
? One way to help students understand the size differences in the planets is to relate them to familiar objects. The following is a list of representations that work well: Mercury-a marble, Venus-a walnut, Earth-golf ball, Mars-acorn, Jupiter-basketball, Saturn-soccer ball, Uranus-softball, Neptune-grapefruit, Pluto-bean, Earth?s moon-raisin. These can also be used for size guides for paper mach? planets, which can be made by teams of students.
In addition to these ideas, there are numerous online activities and computer-based games that for teaching space and the solar system. Space and solar system units offer an opportunity to include a great deal of fun and games in the learning process. Teachers who take advantage of that opportunity will have students who enjoy learning about space and the solar system.
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