Scale Model of Sun and Earth

Contributor: NASA Sun-Earth Day

Type Category: Instructional Materials

Types: Activity

Note: This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Description

In this activity students explore the relative size of the sun and Earth as well as the distance between them at that relative size. This activity serves as a first step to building understanding of distances in space.

Intended Audience
Educator

Educational Level
Youth Public
General Public
Grade 5

Language
English

Access Restrictions
Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectation

5-ESS1-1  Support an argument that differences in the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from the Earth.

Clarification Statement:

none

Assessment Boundary:

Assessment is limited to relative distances, not sizes, of stars. Assessment does not include other factors that affect apparent brightness (such as stellar masses, age, stage).

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation

In this activity, students are exploring the relative size and distance of the sun and Earth. This is a beginning step to then understanding the distance between the Earth’s sun and other stars.

Science and Engineering Practice

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice

Students use a model to describe the relative sizes of the sun and Earth. They then also use the model to describe the distance between the two bodies. The teacher could ask students to articulate what the model represents. Is there anything that is not represented accurately in the model?

Science and Engineering Practice

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice

Students describe and estimate the relative sizes of the sun and Earth. They then describe and estimate the distance between the two bodies at that size.

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

Students explore the distance between Earth and the sun. This is foundational to building an understanding that the sun appears larger and brighter than other stars because it is closer to earth. In order to fully address the entire element, students would also need to explore the distances from Earth to other stars. A section of another published resource, Kinesthetic Astronomy, addresses the distance between Earth’s sun and Alpha Centauri, the next closest star.

Crosscutting Concept

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept

This activity addresses the size of the sun and Earth as well as the distance between them.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The sun appears smaller than Earth to us because of its distance from Earth. This phenomenon is implicitly addressed in this resource. #3 of the “To Do and Notice” section explains that the view from the Earth side of the distance model shows the sun at its apparent size as viewed from Earth. This may be confusing to students, but the idea that distance affects the apparent size of an object can be emphasized here. The crosscutting concept of Scale, Proportion and Quantity is explicitly addressed as students use a model to show the relative sizes of the sun and Earth and the distance between them.
  • Instructional Supports: The students are engaged in using a model to describe the relative sizes of the sun and Earth. The activity suggests the facilitator ask participants their ideas about size and distance. This activity was written for use in an informal setting. If students in the classroom are given the activity sheet, the relative size of the Earth is provided. If the teacher cuts out the model sun without showing the size of the Earth, students can be given an opportunity to express their ideas about the relative size of the Earth. The teacher could give students paper and ask them to draw and cut out a circle that would represent the Earth if the sun were the size of the one provided in the activity. Sharing that it would take approximately 109 times the Earth’s diameter to go across the diameter of the sun, ask students which of their cut out Earths would now be ruled out as this correct size. There is not a provision for differentiating instruction, but since there is no reading or writing, students struggling in those areas are able participate fully.
  • Monitoring Student Progress: As this resource was written for an informal audience, there are no provisions for monitoring student progress. If the teacher utilizes the previous suggestion of asking students to create their idea of the size of Earth at the scale provided, student ideas would be made visible.
  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There are no interactive technological components in the resource.