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Pocket Solar System

Activity Supplies

  • Roll of Paper Register Tape
  • Pencils, colored pencils, or markers

Activity Steps

  1. Watch the how-to video above before starting the activity. List of planets and protoplanets names: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, The Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and the Kuiper Belt
  2. Cut or rip 1-meter strips of register tape (about the length of your arms outstretched)
  3. First, let's predict the positions of objects in our solar system!
    1. On one side of the register tape, lightly draw two dots, one on each end, right at the edge. Label one "Sun" and the other "Pluto and the Kuiper Belt."
    2. Now, predict where the placement of the planets and protoplanets in between. Where do you think they go?" (see list)
  4. Turn the register tape over to create your own pocket solar system model.
  5. Once again, draw two dots on each end of the tape, one large and one small, right at the edge.
    1. Label the large one "Sun" and the small one "Pluto/Kuiper Belt." Even though Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet, it is a useful reference point. We can use it as the first example of such a dwarf planet ever found.

    Note: If you are leading this activity with youth, for steps 6-11, have them make guesses at each location before telling them the answer.

  6. Fold the tape in half, crease it, and unfold it. A planet goes there! Draw a label the planet Uranus.
  7. Fold the tape back in half, then in half again. These are the 1/4 and 3/4 marks. Planets go in each of these creases! Draw and label Saturn at the 1/4 mark and Neptune at the 3/4 mark (Saturn closer to the Sun and Neptune closer to Pluto).
  8. No need to fold up the whole tape again; just fold the Sun edge up to meet Saturn. This fraction is 1/8th. Jupiter is at the 1/8 mark! Draw and label Jupiter.
  9. Fold the Sun out to meet Jupiter. This crease is the 1/16th mark. A planet does not go here, but you can draw a line of little dots and label them the Asteroid Belt!
  10. At this point, things start getting a little crowded, and folding is tough to get precise distances, so fold the remaining 1/16th in half and crease at the 1/32nd spot. Place a small dot for the Earth just inside this fold (closer to the Sun) and a small dot for Mars just outside the fold (closer to the Asteroid Belt) and label them.
  11. Place a small dot for Mercury and then Venus, between the Earth and Sun, dividing the space into thirds and label them as Mercury closest to the Sun and Venus closest to the Earth.

Official Lesson Plan