My Trip to Jupiter
Adapted from "Lesson 3: Looking Inside the Planets," Solar System Activities, ARES NASA Johnson Space Center.
In this 1 1/2-hour concluding activity, children ages 8 to 13 create a scrapbook documenting their trips to Jupiter — experienced through the Solar System Family Secrets activities — where each page describes an aspect or 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 aspect or layer and summarize their findings.
What's the Point?
- Jupiter has many unique characteristics, including:
- It is the largest and most massive planet in our solar system.
- It is made up of distinct layers. Beneath Jupiter's thick atmosphere, there is probably no solid surface. It may have a dense core of rock surrounded by fluid metallic hydrogen, and above that, a layer of liquid hydrogen.
- It has a distinct banded appearance, violent storms, and clouds of many different colors. Jupiter's atmosphere can be compared to Earth's in many ways, but its rapid rotation, strong convection, deep layers, and composition generate exceptional weather.
- It formed at the same time as our Sun and the other planets and after the Big Bang.
- The interior of a planet cannot be studied directly; scientists have inferred the composition from their observations.
- The Juno spacecraft's instruments will collect information about Jupiter's gravity, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and interior. These clues will help scientists understand exactly how Jupiter, and the broader solar system, formed.
For each group of 10 to 20 children:
- Miscellaneous craft items such as:
- Colored pencils or markers
- Cotton balls or cotton batting
- Small bubble wrap
- Plastic wrap in different colors
- Sand or sandpaper
- Aluminum foil
- Metallic pens
- Tissue paper
- Glow-in-the-dark stickers or paints
- Construction paper
- Yarn, string, ribbon
- Optional: scrapbook scissors, embossers, punches, etc.
- Optional: 5–10 (22" x 28") brightly-colored, standard-sized poster boards
- Optional: books about the solar system, such as:
Elaine Landau, Children's Press, 2008, ISBN 0531125599
Landau introduces Jupiter to children ages 9–12. Learn about what it's like on Jupiter and the largest storm in our solar system! Colorful images accompany the easy-to-read text.
Adele Richardson, Capstone Press, 2008, ISBN 142960722X
Discover what Jupiter looks like on the inside and how it compares to the other planets in our solar system. This book is great for 9–12 year old children.
- Jupiter, Neptune and Other Outer Planets
Chris Oxlade, Rosen Central, 2007, ISBN 1404237360
Discover what the outer planets are made of and how they formed. Children ages 9–12 will learn a lot of great information about those far-away planets!
- Mighty Megaplanets: Jupiter and Saturn
David Jefferis, Crabtree Publishing Company, 2008, ISBN 0778737535
Readers 9–12 explore the two largest planets in our solar system and are encouraged to ask questions, such as how many moons they have and why Saturn has rings.
For each child:
- His/her My Trip to Jupiter Journal
- 1 pencil or pen
For the facilitator:
- Review the background information.
- Provide a large area where the children can assemble their scrapbooks or posters.
- Set out the craft supplies.
- Optional: Provide wall space to display the children's posters. If desired, set out a selection of books about Jupiter next to the display space.
1. Explain that the children will select from the available craft materials to represent Jupiter's features in a scrapbook to take home or on a poster to exhibit at the library. Using the information they recorded in their journals, they will summarize their investigations into Jupiter's size, density and gravity, atmosphere, magnetic field, interior, and origins; each topic will be a separate page or two in their scrapbooks. Each page can have a crafty depiction of what they learned and key words or sentences that capture the most important information about Jupiter's properties and features. Prompt them to identify the most appropriate materials (for instance, older children can determine that Jupiter's liquid metallic hydrogen layer would be better depicted by metallic pens or aluminum foil rather than sandpaper or cotton balls).
2. Optional: Invite older children, ages 10 to 13, to arrange their scrapbook pages or posters in order of the layers. An assembled scrapbook might showcase Jupiter’s layers from the perspective of going deeper into the planet:
- Magnetic field
- Molecular hydrogen layer
- Liquid metallic hydrogen inner layer
- Rocky core
3. Optional: Display the posters at the library. If desired, include books in the display.
Ask the children to describe what experiences during their "trips" to Jupiter stood out to them. Share that the Juno mission will arrive at Jupiter in 2016. The pressures inside Jupiter are far too high for Juno to actually enter Jupiter's atmosphere. Its instruments will collect data that will allow scientists to infer details about its interior, and they will make direct measurements of the atmosphere's composition and the magnetosphere. From its unique polar orbit, Juno will observe Jupiter with its instruments and investigate all of the features we described today. Scientists will use that information to design computer that represent the various features of Jupiter, just as we did in selecting materials for our scrapbooks.
Invite the children to share the results of their investigations by showing their scrapbooks to friends and family or inviting others to view their exhibit at the library. Encourage them to communicate their findings to others — just as scientists do to move our understanding of the universe forward!