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Sample Lesson: Interplanetary Hike

An Interplanetary Hike

Let's explore the solar system by walking through a SCALE MODEL of it. Each step you take will stand for 30,000,000 miles in the real solar system. This activity will be more fun with a friend to help you.  

Solar System

WHAT YOU NEED: 11 objects to mark the planets, sun and moon. In Home Science Adventures we provide little flags, but you can make flags from index cards and pencils, or just use balls, or folded index cards to mark the planets. flags
cards WHAT TO DO: Find a place outside where you can take a hundred steps in a straight line. Place the Sun at the beginning of this line. Now pace off the distances to each planet as shown in the last column of the distance table on the next page.


Imagine you are a spaceship headed out across the solar system. Then, walk across your entire solar system. When you get to Pluto, turn around and try to see the Earth and Sun. From Pluto the Sun would be so far away, it would look like little more than a bright star.  



DISTANCE TABLE Distance to the Sun Total steps from SUN Pace off the solar system like this:
SUN 0 miles 0 START HERE
Mercury 36 million miles 1 1 step to Mercury
Venus 67 million miles 2 1 more step to Venus
Earth & Moon 93 million miles 3 1 more to Earth & moon*
Mars 142 million miles 4 1 more to Mars
Jupiter 483 million miles 13 9 more to Jupiter
Saturn 885 million miles 25 12 more to Saturn
Uranus 1.8 billion miles 50 25 more to Uranus
Neptune 2.8 billion miles 78 28 more to Neptune
Pluto 3.7 billion miles 103 25 more to Pluto
*The moon goes right next to the Earth, about this far away:  
arrows About the width of your little finger. Think of that! That is the farthest that mankind has ever traveled!


What would it take to walk to the stars?  

  The nearest star is the Sun, so that's about 3 paces from earth.


The next closest star is Alpha Centauri.

To reach Alpha Centauri, you would have to take a lot of paces.
In fact, you would have to pace for 200 miles!


When you are done, please remember to pick up your flags.

Notes from the Parent Guide


An Interplanetary Hike

Lesson Notes: If weather absolutely forbids doing this outside, you could do it inside with a ruler. Change “steps” to “inches”. (However, it’s more meaningful outdoors, as the distances are more impressive.)

Objectives: Through completing this lesson the child will: 1) Gain an appreciation of the vastness of distances between the planets;
2) Compare these distances to the greatest distances that humans have ever traveled.

Further Explorations (optional):
• Given the distances, it would take a long time to travel through space, especially beyond our solar system. What kinds of things would you put in your spaceship to make the trip more enjoyable?

©2006 by Stratton House

Just for fun: You can find a Basque translation of this activity at science.webhostinggeeks.com. They have other interesting stuff, too!

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