Unit Overview

In Mosa Mack’s Solar System unit, students are led through a progression of three inquiry lessons that focus on the scale properties of objects in the solar system and how this affects the brightness of stars.


Lesson Overview

Medium 1s 640Solve: Mars Mystery + Vocabulary Mind Map

Students contextualize Solar System vocabulary in a mind map before helping Mosa Mack come to an aspiring astronaut’s aid in a space-related mystery. Marsha and Wes need to build a canyon contraption to build the first amusement park on Mars, but all his plans are going awry. By the end of The Solve,students discover that the size of surface features of far-away planets, such as canyons, can be determined based on satellite photos and their distance from the Earth. (75 mins)

Medium 2m 640Make: Create a Scaled Space-themed Amusement Park

Students design a space-themed amusement park that is accurately scaled to represent the same dimensions of our solar system and considers scale properties of planets’ features to be represented as park features and attractions. (300 mins)

Medium 3e 640Engineer: Use Scale to create Constellations

Students use their knowledge of scale factors from the Make in order to design an accurate constellation in a box. (300 mins)

Next Generations Science Standards

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.
MS-ESS1-3
Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.

Science & Engineering Practices

  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Engaging in Arguments From Evidence

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • Earth and the Solar System
  • The Universe and its Stars

Cross Cutting Concepts

  • Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science
  • Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology
  • Scale, Proportion and Quantity

Inquiry Scale

  • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
  • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
  • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.

Common Misconceptions

  • Students may believe that when they look at a scaled drawing of the solar system, they’re seeing an image that scales for both diameter of the planet and the distance from the sun. Because the order of magnitude is so different when comparing the planet diameter to the orbital radius, you’d need to use two scales, which can be confusing.
  • Students may not realize that our sun is a star. Demonstrate through The Make that our sun is the star closest to Earth.
  • Initially students may think that stars are all the same distance away from Earth, forming one flat sheet of stars that stretches across the night sky. Emphasize through The Engineer that the sky is actually filled with stars at various distances from Earth and that is why some are brighter than others.
  • Relatedly, initially students may think that the brighter a star is, the bigger it is. Emphasize through The Make that a star’s brightness is not only related to its size, but also related to its distance from Earth.

Vocabulary

    • Distance
    • Astronomical Unit (AU)
    • Mars
    • Star
    • Orbit
    • Scale

Resources

  • Powerpoints for Make and Design
  • Vocabulary Mind Map
  • Solve Student Handout
  • Make Student Handout
  • Design Student Handout

New: RocketLit Leveled Reading

* To give our users the most comprehensive science resource, Mosa Mack is piloting a partnership with RocketLit, a provider of leveled science articles.

  • Floating in Space

    In this article, students receive an intro to what's floating out in space. Student read about basic heavenly bodies such as stars, orbits, solar systems and galaxies.

  • Asteroids, Comets, Meteors

    In this article, we differentiate between each of these fascinating celestial bodies, and give explicit definitions.

  • Galilean Moons

    This article details the amazing Galilean moons for students, with brief descriptions of each moon and some of the most interesting characteristics that scientists have observed!

  • The Trip Around the Sun

    In this article, students learn about the different elements of Earth's orbit around the sun. We introduce students to the orbit around the star, the period of revolution, and the tilt of our axis.

  • Get to Know Your Gassy Space Neighbors

    In this article, students will read about the order of the 4 gas giants in our solar system, what each one looks like and a brief description of the conditions.

  • Your Rocky Space Neighbors

    In this article, students are given a brief summary of each of the rocky planets. They look at the composition, sizes and the environments on each planet.

  • Planets Don't Make Circles

    This article investigates the idea that planets have elliptical and not circular orbits. It also addresses the difference between orbit and rotation when it comes to planetary movement.

  • Your Space Neighborhood

    This article serves as an introduction to the Solar System and the basic structures that orbit around the sun: gas planets, rocky planets and the asteroid belt.