I had been planning a Solar System Project for sometime, we just needed a several days or a weekend when we could easily have the table covered in drying planets and not much else in the way of activities lined up. That weekend came during the school holidays when we also had warmer weather and could dine alfresco.
I was also waiting until Luna and Blake could get into the idea, and had the enthusiasm and interest to stick to it long enough!
Over the years we have read and learned about the Solar System and space, Luna and Blake have loved visiting the local Planetarium, seeing the planets and solar system models there, along with rockets and space shuttles. So, we went to the local arts and crafts supply store and bought a range of polystyrene balls, they had a great selection and we were able to find everything we needed.
We were not going for a precise scale model, but more of an idea of the size of planets, and understanding their relationships to each other and the Sun and other stars. Luna was really keen on the star shape decorations too.
Luna grabbed this Space Exploration poster they have had in the bedroom for years, and we put it up while were working. Good idea Luna!
We had a large sheet of white paper which we used to make a map of the planets, talk about the various sizes, and work out who wanted to paint what.
In order to paint the spheres (and reduce the risk of wet paint being splattered around by rolling escapee planets) using a long needle, I threaded nylon through the polystyrene balls and taped them to our small stool. I made the nylon the length I intended to hang them, so they would be all set to hang when dry.
Blake didn’t want to hang his so I propped it up using his favourite mug covered in plastic wrap. Blake also decided he was making a second Saturn, instead of Jupiter, as planned….and he also invented his own colours. Hey, we can be flexible about our interpretation after all…
The stool worked really well! To make Saturn’s rings, we traced around a dinner plate onto corrugated cardboard, and using toothpicks pushed, first into the planet, and then the gaps in the cardboard, it took a bit of maneuvering to get the desired effect, and it worked well.
We needed music! So I made a selection of space themed records to accompany the project days….
Holst’s The Planets is great, setting a mood, or personality for the celestial bodies.
Luna and Blake love 2001 a Space Odyssey, so we had to include it…Favourites From Outer Space was a bit of fun too.
We borrowed this from our library, and while we have seen a few good Space documentaries, Orbit was excellent!
Covering the importance of the Earth’s tilt, the gravitational effect of the Sun and our Moon, the history of our planet in the solar system, the ages of ice, higher and lower sea levels, the Jet Stream, tidal movements, wind and water patterns created by our spinning planet.. heaps of relevant and interesting information, visiting different countries, and climates, and, the scientists who present it are Kate Humble and Dr Helen Czerski, win win! Hooray for women in science!
We hung our solar system near our stairs, we have large paper lampshades, which make the perfect ‘sun’ for the model. We had additional planets and stars and so we created clusters of other planets in the room, to remind us that ours is only one of millions of other planets in existence.
Lots of spacey fun was had by all!