Lunar and Planetary Institute






Big Kid on the Block
EXPLORE! Solar System

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.

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