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Part six works on the difference between Orbit and Rotation and distance from the Sun
Science, Social Studies
Title – Around And Around They Go
By – Alex Johnson-Jimenez
Subject – Science, Social Studies
Grade Level – 5th-6th Grade
NOTE: This is lesson 6 of the Colonization of Mars Thematic Unit.
Students compare and contrast the differences between orbit and rotation. Students will identify the implications of being too close or too far from the sun when discussing human and plant life.
Styrofoam balls of varying size
Several cut off milk containers with dyes and rubber gloves (optional)
Meter long poles
Meter long Styrofoam strips
Estimated Time: 60 minutes
On the board write, “Your group has 15 minutes to construct a 3D visual representation of the solar system. You may make a mobile, diorama, or any other project using the materials provided. Each body in the solar system must be labeled in some way.”
1.Give the students the time to work on their projects. Total time: 15 min.
2.When the timer goes off have students line up and go outside (weather permitting) or the gymnasium.
3.Once outside, have students sit on the ground and ask, “what is an orbit?” Discuss, then ask, “what is a rotation?” Discuss, then summarize that planets orbit the sun and that planets rotate on an axis.
4.Have a student stand up and pretend to be the sun.
5.Ask, “what planet is closest to the sun?” Someone will answer Mercury. Have that person stand up and stand about three feet from the “sun”. Continue doing this with each planet and making the students of the outlining planets stand further and further away from the “sun”.
6.The remaining students are asked to observe the mock solar system.
7.Tell students that they will act as the planets and will orbit the sun, walking at a normal pace. Say, “begin orbiting now.”
8.Have students orbit for about a minute or two and then ask them to stop. Bring them all in close enough to hear. Ask the observers, “what did you see?” Lead them to the conclusion that the planets closest to the sun orbited faster than the ones further away from the sun. Have them explain why this occurred; the answers will vary.
9.State, “ok, now we will have the planets rotate as they orbit. That means that as you walk around the sun, you must also slowly walk around in a circle where you are.” Demonstrate spinning in a circle as you walk around the sun. Be prepared for students getting dizzy.
10.Once the students have done this for a minute or so, ask the observers, “does the distance from the sun affect the rotation of the planets?” The answer is no.
11.Give other students the opportunity to role play the planets as they orbit and rotate. Once all students have participated, reiterate the difference between orbit and rotation and return to the room. Total time: 25 min.
12.Pick nine volunteers. Have the students stand at two feet intervals from the front of the room. Tell each student that they represent one of the planets. Label them in order from Mercury to Pluto with Mercury at the front of the line. At the front of the room light a candle. Ask the students to extend their left hands to the flame. Then ask the rest of the class which planet they think will feel the hottest, the coldest, and just simply warm. Ask the student planets to report how much heat their hands feel. As predicted, Mercury will report the hottest temperatures while Pluto will report not feeling any heat at all. Earth and Mars will report similar temperatures. Have students sit down. Ask, “why is heat or sunlight important to the survival of plants or people?” Refer students back to the lesson on what plants need in order to survive, how people and plants would freeze if we did not have the right amount of heat, and how we also depend on the sun for power-solar power.
Total time: 10 min.
13.On the board write the journal topic, “Free write.”
14.Inform the students that they may have the remainder of the time to finish up their 3D visual representations, start on their journals, or ask questions.
Walk throughout the classroom observing and answering questions. Assess the accuracy of their work and following of directions, ability to think critically, independent work, creativity, and contribution to the group.
Answer the topic question and add three more words to their private word list and defining them in their own words.
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