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21. Edible Solar System

Purpose

To learn the order of the planets in the solar system.

Materials

• 8 inch paper plates (inexpensive ones)

• Compass

• Different sized hard candies to represent the planets

(butterscotch for the sun; red hots, Skittles, mints, etc.)

• Colored, large crystal, sugar (for the asteroid belt)

• Canned frosting

Background

When the ancients studied the night sky, they noticed that five "stars" moved with respect to the others. They called them "planets," from the Greek word for "wanderer," and kept careful records of their motions. These records eventually enabled astronomers to figure out why they moved as they did: the planets, including our Earth, orbit around the Sun in nearly circular orbits. Over the years, telescopes have enabled us to discover three other planets, bringing the total number to nine (including Earth).

This activity

Using different sized candies, this activity will allow students to model the order of the planets in the solar system.

Preparation

Following the directions listed on the student sheet, the orbital paths of each planet must first be drawn on the paper plate. A compass works well. Older students can accomplish this task on their own. Younger students may need to have them drawn in. (This activity models only the order of the planets from the sun and not size or distance.)

In class

Each student receives a paper plate, different sized candies, and a small amount of cement frosting. "Features" on each planet may be added to larger planets using frosting and smaller sized candies.

Reference

Project ASTRO Resource Notebook, Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Get activity 21 in a PDF file, requires Acrobat Reader.

Go to Activity 20 | Go to Student Page | Go to Activity 22