Lunar and Planetary Institute

Jupiter's Family Secrets - Activities
EXPLORE! Solar System

Explore! Jupiter's Family Secrets
Overview of Activities

For Children Ages 8 to 13
The following five activities align with national standards for grades K-4 and 5-8.

Jump Start: Jupiter!
Jump Start: Jupiter! is a 60-minute kick-off for children ages 8 to 13 that sets the stage for further explorations and activities in Explore! Jupiter's Family Secrets. As a group, children discuss what they know about the solar system and Jupiter. They work in teams to read about the Sun, eight planets, asteroid belt, and Pluto. They use their knowledge to create a poster about each object, which can be displayed in the library and used to create the Jump to Jupiter outdoor course. The children revisit what they have learned and prepare to explore further.

Jump to Jupiter
Children ages 8 to 13 help create and then navigate an outdoor course of the traditional "planets" (including dwarf planet Pluto), which are represented by small common objects. By counting the jumps needed to reach each object, children experience first hand the vast scale of our solar system. The children's posters from Jump Start: Jupiter! may be used to construct the course.

Planet Party
In this 30-minute activity children ages 7 and up and their families go outside on a clear evening and view the sky to see the planets for themselves. Using sky charts and other resources, and possibly in partnership with a local astronomical society, children navigate the night sky and view planets with the naked eye and binoculars or telescopes.

Jiggly Jupiter
In this 45-minute activity, children ages 8 to 13 build edible models of Jupiter and Earth to compare their sizes and illustrate their internal layers. They discuss how the Juno mission will help to infer details about Jupiter's interior by measuring its gravity field and magnetic field.

Weather Stations
In this 1 1/2–hour series of brief station activities, children ages 9 to 13 take a closer look at Jupiter's distinct banded appearance, violent storms, and clouds of many different colors.

Temperature and Pressure
Children discover the relationship between temperature and pressure in the lower atmospheres of Jupiter and Earth. They chart the increasing temperature as they add pressure to a 2–liter soda bottle with a Fizz-Keeper pump.

Phase Change
Children observe the water cycle in action! Water vapor in a tumbler condenses on chilled aluminum foil — producing the liquid form of water familiar to us as rain and dew. They discuss how Jupiter's lack of a surface simplifies its water cycle and consider that ammonia and ammonia compounds play a role in its more complicated atmosphere.

Children observe Earth clouds and discover that Jupiter also has different kinds of clouds at its upper, middle, and lower levels. They consider whether the Juno mission will discover water clouds in Jupiter's lower atmosphere.

Children test how corn starch and glitter in water move when disturbed. They compare their observations with videos of Jupiter’s and Earth’s storm movements.

Children use a toaster to generate wind and compare the appliance’s heat source to Jupiter’s own hot interior. They discover that convection drives wind on Jupiter and on Earth.

Jovian Poetry
Imaginations soar as children embark to describe Jupiter’s clouds from a poet’s perspective! They consider poems about Earth’s clouds and artists’ renderings of Jupiter’s clouds as they compose their poems.

How’s the Weather on Jupiter?
In this open-ended inquiry, children build their own weather instruments from common materials. Their designs, intended for use on a spacecraft exploring Jupiter, are tested on Earth.

For Children Ages 10 to 13
The following suite of activities is appropriate for older children and aligns best with national standards for grades 5-8. The concepts investigated in the activities involve more advanced science than previous activities in Jupiter's Family Secrets, and they explore more deeply the science of the Juno mission and the rich information it will return to us. Facilitators who choose to undertake these activities should have a firm grasp of the scientific basis so that misconceptions are not introduced to the children.

Investigating the Insides
Investigating the Insides is a 30-minute activity in which teams of children, ages 10 to 13, investigate the composition of unseen materials using a variety of tools. This open-ended engagement activity mimics how scientists discover clues about the interiors of planets with telescopes and tools onboard spacecraft.

Neato-Magneto Planets
Neato-Magneto Planets is a 45-minute activity in which teams of children, ages 11 to 13, have the opportunity to do their own planetary investigations! The teams study magnetic fields at four separate stations: examining magnetic fields generated by everyday items, mapping out a magnetic field using a compass, creating models of Earth's and Jupiter's magnetic fields, and observing aurora produced by magnetic fields on both planets.

From Your Birthday to Jupiter's
Children explore their origins through three stories. First, they model their own lifetimes by tying knots in lengths of yarn to represent key events in their pasts. Then, they act out a cultural story of our origins. Finally, they explore Jupiter’s story by modeling a timeline from today back to its "birthday." They use the timeline to visually demonstrate that the Big Bang occurred much earlier in the past. Children will discover how the Juno mission to Jupiter will help unveil how our solar system including Earth came to be. This 1-hour activity is appropriate for children ages 11 to 13.

Big Kid on the Block
This sequence of activities focuses on Jupiter’s immense size. Children experiment with planet densities to discover that size isn’t everything! They delve further into what it means to be the big kid on the block on a planetary scale, with a large size, relatively high density, and gravity of fantastic proportions! This series is appropriate for children ages 10 to 13.

Solar System in My Neighborhood
In this 1-hour activity, children shrink the scale of the vast solar system to the size of their neighborhood. They are challenged to consider not only the traditional "planets," but also some of the smaller objects orbiting the Sun. Children compare the relative sizes of scale models of the planets, two dwarf planets, and a comet as represented by fruits and other foods. They determine the spacing between the scaled planets on a map of the neighborhood and relate those distances to familiar landmarks. This indoor activity may be used in addition to, or in place of, the outdoor scale model explored in Jump to Jupiter.

Dunking the Planets
In this 30-minute demonstration, children compare the relative sizes and masses of scale models of the planets as represented by fruits and other foods. The children dunk the "planets" in water to highlight the fact that even a large, massive planet — such as Saturn — can have low density. They discuss how a planet’s density is related to whether it is mainly made up of rock or gas. This activity should be conducted before Heavyweight Champion: Jupiter!, in order for the children to better distinguish the concepts of size, weight, and mass and to identify the relationship between density and composition.

Heavyweight Champion: Jupiter!
Heavyweight Champion: Jupiter! is a 30-minute activity in which children confront their perceptions of gravity in the solar system. The children weigh themselves on scales modified to represent their weights on other worlds to explore the concept of gravity and its relationship to weight. They consider how their weights would be the highest of all the planets while standing on Jupiter, but their mass remains the same no matter where in the solar system they are! They compare the features of different planets to determine which characteristics cause a planet to have more or less gravity.  This activity should be conducted before The Pull of the Planets in order for the children to better understand gravity before they model it.

The Pull of the Planets
The Pull of the Planets is a 30-minute activity in which teams of children model the gravitational fields of planets on a flexible surface. Children place and move balls of different sizes and densities on a plastic sheet to develop a mental picture of how the mass of an object influences how much affect it has on the surrounding space. This activity should be conducted after Heavyweight Champion: Jupiter!, which allows the children to discover the force of gravity in the solar system.

My Trip to Jupiter

In this 1 ½-hour concluding activity, children ages 8 to13 create a scrapbook documenting their trips to Jupiter — experienced through the Solar System Family Secrets activities — where each page describes a layer of Jupiter and Earth. Alternatively, they create posters with this information to display as a library exhibit. Using their My Trip to Jupiter journals, they select common craft items to represent the characteristics of each layer and summarize their findings.


Last updated
June 14, 2011