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Size Up the Planets
You won't be able to create the planets in your solar system project for elementary school entirely to scale. The Sun is so much larger than some of the smaller planets that even if the planets were as small as a marble, the Sun would be far too huge to fit on any science project. Therefore, you'll have to estimate a bit. Then think about the materials that you would like to use for your solar system project. You can use any of the following three types of materials to create the planets:
- The easiest materials to use are different colored pieces of tagboard cut into circles and decorated with markers. These are also the easiest to cut to size, since you can always snip off more from the edges if necessary.
- You could make the planets out of papier mache by blowing up balloons to different sizes and covering them with strips of newspaper dipped in a flour and water mixture. You can then paint the resulting balls in the colors of the planets, adding details as necessary.
- The most difficult materials to use are actual balls. You would need to find small superballs in slightly different sizes for Mercury and Venus (and Pluto, if you are including it), slightly larger blue and red balls for Earth and Mars, and much larger balls for Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. You could also use foam balls from a craft store, if you can find the appropriate colors. If you cannot find the balls in the correct colors, you can always paint over the balls. You will need the paint anyway to add details to some of the planets (e.g., land and water on Earth, a red spot on Jupiter).
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You may want to add the following details to the solar system:
- Land and water to Earth
- A large ring to Saturn, and a smaller one to Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune.
- A red spot to Jupiter
- The asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter
- The Kuiper Belt, which is beyond Neptune and includes Pluto
- The Oort cloud, which is beyond the Kuiper Belt
You can unbend a hanger to use as a ring around the planets, covering it in papier mache or colored tape if desired. To create the asteroid belt, the Kiuper Belt, and the Oort cloud, you may want to cut out a large ring from a piece of tagboard and glue rocks onto it.
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Displaying the Planets
Presentation methods for your solar system project for elementary school vary as well. The easiest method is to attach the planets to a piece of tagboard and simply line them up. You could also cut out a large circle, draw orbits on the circle, and hang the planets from the appropriate orbits using a hole puncher and a piece of string. Alternatively, you can hang the planets from the bottom edge of a hanger, also in a straight line. Make sure to create a sun to go in the center of the solar system.
This science project is one way to help students learn about the solar system. You can also check out these planet lesson plans for some other hands-on ideas.
Elementary School Science Project: Model of the Solar System
Although many science fairs attract mostly middle school students, students of all ages can gain from the experience. This series includes science fair project ideas for all ages - from kindergarten up to high school.