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 1
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    Solve: 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)

  • Lesson 2
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    Make: 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)

  • Lesson 3
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    Engineer: 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 Generation Science Standards
    5-ESS1-1
    Support an argument that the apparent brightness of the sun and stars is due to their relative distances from the Earth. [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to relative distances, not sizes, of stars. Assessment does not include other factors that affect apparent brightness (such as stellar masses, age, stage).]
    MS-ESS1-3
    Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the analysis of data from Earth based instruments, space based telescopes, and spacecraft to determine similarities and differences among solar system objects. Examples of scale properties include the sizes of an object’s layers (such as crust and atmosphere), surface features (such as volcanoes), and orbital radius. Examples of data include statistical information, drawings and photographs, and models.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include recalling facts about properties of the planets and other solar system bodies.]
  • 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
  • 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.

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