Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Science Unit: our complete Solar System study

We have had an incredibly fun journey into space over the past month (actually a little longer because of the sick days in between!). Here are the highlights of our trip:

~ Boy did we read books! We read a whole collection of books on space, from easy picture books to space encyclopedias. We usually read the more basic books out loud together, so that the material was more accessible to Damian. Then I put the more complex reading in Rylan’s workboxes for him to read on his own. If he had questions, we discussed it together during my one on one time with him. He also reads the more complex books with his Dad during bed time (he stays up a little later than Damian these days). Here are some of the books we read, Amazon limits you to 10 items per carousel, so I couldn’t fit them all in without turning this post into a long series of book lists! :)

~ We also watched several DVDs:

~ We read the Magic School Bus book about the Solar System, watched the related DVD, and then completed all the experiments/activities in the Magic School Bus: The Secrets of Space science kit. You can see a couple of these below (most of them involved flashlights and therefore being in dim light, so I did not take many pictures):

IMG_7293 [800x600]  IMG_7345 [800x600]

{build your own telescope and solar system model}

~ To learn about the phases of the moon, or the lunar phases we built and used this model and read up about it on wikipedia, which also has a very cool animation of the lunar phases. For a tutorial on how to make this model, look at this post.

IMG_7242 [800x600]

~ We put this solar system puzzle together.


~ As with all our unit styled studies, we keep all the books and manipulatives (that can be reused) from our learning in our “feature study” area. You can see in the picture below all the books, posters, lacing cards, roll a rocket game, space songs, puzzles, lunar model, earth orbit model, etc. The boys are encouraged to use this material throughout the duration of the unit (for more on our school room layout see this post).

IMG_7319 [800x600] IMG_7317 [800x600]

~ I created several sensorial tubs and activities which I spread out over the course of the month. With the tubs, I left them put together for a couple of weeks each, so they could revisit the tubs and play.

IMG_7227 [800x600] {tub contains: rice base, “space” letter cookie cutters, star and moon cookie cutters, a mini earth globe, star bursts, black pompoms, “moon rocks”, sparkly star and moon paper cut outs, rocket ships, and the contents of the Safari space tube}

IMG_7213 [800x600] {tub contains: moon sand base (I could only find green and yellow when I went shopping for moon sand, would not have been my first choice, but worked none the less), mini ax and rock mould, magnifying glass, rocks made from moon dough, cookie cutters, and the contents of the Safari space tub.}

IMG_7183 [800x600] {space playdough play}

~ I used the A is for astronaut pack materials from Spell Outloud for Damian (I laminated them, and used stick on magnets at the back of each item so they could be used on our white boards and the fridge).

IMG_7181 [800x600]

~ Damian did this A is for Astronaut do-a-dot sheet from Making Learning Fun.

IMG_7210 [800x600]

~ Rylan completed various worksheets and coloring pages in his workboxes throughout the course of our study, here are some examples:

IMG_7179 [800x600]

~ We put together a glow in the dark solar system, stuck it to the ceiling with putty, closed the blinds to make the room dark, laid down on the floor, and “star gazed” up at the ceiling (we did real star gazing in Hawaii, but here in a big city it is not so easy, especially when the sun sets after the boy’s bedtime these days!).

IMG_7337 [800x600]

~ In trying to bring more music into all our learning time, we listened to the classical CD, The Planets, by composer Gustav Holst. While listening we discussed the Roman/Greek gods that the planets had been named after, and how the music conveyed the characteristics of these gods.

~ I used parts of the Astronaut preschool pack from Homeschool Creations for Damian. Both boys especially loved singing the “Climb About the Spaceship” song, which we added actions to and sang many times to begin our day’s exploration.

~ I also used a few of the activities from this pack for Damian.

IMG_7209 [800x600] IMG_7206 [800x600]

~ I made this earth lacing card for the boys to use (found the earth picture on Google images). Make sure to laminate or stick your picture onto cardboard (actually I did both), so it is sturdy enough for lacing.

IMG_7180 [800x600]

~ To help the boys understand and visualize how the earth rotates on its axis and orbits around the sun, giving us day and night and the seasons, we made this model, which they could manipulate themselves to get a sense of how it all works.  They wanted to add the moon on to it too, the second picture shows that addition. For a tutorial on how to put this together go to this post (it also explains other activities we did to reinforce this concept using a globe and flashlight).


~ I created this solar system concentration/match up game for the boys to play with. You can download the cards from here, and read about how we used them in this post.

solar system

~ We created a large scale model of the solar system on our reading room floor. We used planet cut outs, yarn to create the rings of orbit, black pompoms to create the asteroid belt, and at the end the boys added labels to each planet.

IMG_7254 [800x600]

IMG_7258 [800x600]

~ Of course we had to build rocket ships! We built two different kinds, at different times during the month long study. The boys built both set of rockets entirely by themselves:

IMG_7342 [800x600] {To make: paper towel roll, sheet of paper for tips, construction paper wings, tissue paper streamers. Put together with tape and decorate.}

IMG_7333 [800x600]

{Idea for these from Kid Craft Weekly}

~ The boys drew solar systems using rainbow scratch paper.

~ Rylan created his own constellations on black construction paper, and wrote his own mythical stories behind their names.

IMG_7303 [800x600]

~ Just for fun, the boys wanted to play with this “galactic ooze” that we found at our local teacher resource center. :)

~ Websites we visited together:

We plan to visit a planetarium this summer, otherwise, that’s a wrap (hope I remembered it all!). Happy space exploration!


  1. Wow! Lots of great stuff! Thanks for all of the links and sharing what you did.

  2. This is by far one of the best space units I've come across. Thanks for sharing all your sources!

  3. Wow is right! I love it all. What a great unit! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you for all the wonderful comments! :)



Related Posts with Thumbnails