Astronomy

Science Projects Involving the Sun Moon and Earth for Elementary School Students



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Let's dig right in to three great projects:

YOU ARE A ROCKET

Elementary aged kids are eager to learn. It is one of my favorite things about teaching them. However, they are even more eager to run and play. Let's combine the two. Young students know about the Sun and the Moon. They can look outside each day or night and see one of them. They may not, however, know that the Sun is way farther away than the Moon. To them, they each take up about the same amount of space in the sky.

Take them outside. Set up a starting point that represent earth. First, ask them which they think is closer. Then, ask them how much further away they think the Moon is to the Earth compared to the Sun, or vice versa. Have them first run 392 yards (as rockets, of course.) Tell them they just ran to the Sun. Ask them again, whether they think the Moon will be closer or farther. Then have them run one yard. Tell them that that is how big the difference is between the distance to the Moon from Earth, compared to the first run that represents to Earth to the Sun. The Sun is about 392 times farther from Earth than the Moon is (on average.) Go back to your classroom and explain the difference on the board or on paper, and then explain to them the reason they look the same in the sky is the fact that the Sun is so much larger than the moon.

WHICH IS THE BIGGEST

It can be difficult to explain to your young students just how large the earth is. Which makes it about 100 times as difficult to explain how big the sun is. Volume can be tough at this age, so we are sticking to diameter. For this exercise, I like to use pennies. Ask all of your students to bring in pennies on a certain day (inform them that all the of the pennies are going to charity, and tell them about the charity and how they are helping people.)

Once the pennies are in, ask your kids what they think is the smallest of Moon, Earth, and Sun. Guide the consensus towards moon. Have one penny represent the size of the Moon.

Have the put one penny on the middle of the floor to represent the Moon. Then, underneath the 'Moon penny' have them start with one penny, and keep adding until the get to four across. Tell them that that is how much bigger the Earth is compared to the Moon. Then, underneath the one penny long Moon row, and the four penny long Earth row, have them, one at a time start placing pennies side by side. Once they get to one hundred tell them to stop. That is how much wider the sun is compared to the Earth and Moon. Have a conversation about their thoughts about this. They are sure to come up with some really clever yet cute insights on this realization.

VERY BASIC INTRODUCTION TO GRAVITY

Now that your kids know that the Sun is far away from us, and much larger, it is time to put the above lessons together in a VERY basic lesson in gravity. You basically tell them that the biggest object (the Sun) has more gravity. Explain gravity in the most simple of terms and don't worry if they don't full understand. Then tell them the Earth revolves around the Sun in a circle, because the Sun is bigger and has more pull. At this point, take a volunteer from your class as the Sun (they will stand still) and one as the Earth, who will rotate around the Sun. THEN, tell them that since the Moon is closer to and smaller than the Earth, that IT revolves around the Earth while the Earth revolves around the Sun. Have students take turns trying to run around the person playing the Earth, while they slowly walk in circles around the person playing the Sun. They may not fully understand the logic behind this exercise, but it is a fun one, and it will lay the groundwork for them to one day grasp our place in the Solar System.

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