Walk the Solar System

This activity is a great way to get a feeling of the size of our Solar System and to humble on our small we are.

What you need

To be able to do this you will need an outside area of almost a kilometer long (about 0,62 miles), ideally in a strait line where you can safely walk with your students. I use the bicycle path next to our school.

The Sun is represented by a basketball and all the planets are represented by objet that are their approximate size to scale. Here is a table of suggested objects. The funny thing is that all the planets fits into one sandwich ziplock bag!

 

a table of all the planets, their size to scale and objects to replace them

I recommend to bring along large objets to leave behind you at every location where the Sun or a planet is suppose to be. I use orange construction cones.

The activity

After explaining the the basketball represent the Sun, ask one or some of you students to count the number of steps until the next planet (as listed on the table below)

 

A table of the planets and distance between them and to the Sun

When you arrive at your destination, leave a cone and show the students the objet that represent that planet to scale. I also like to use the app SolAR (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/solar-solar-system-in-ar/id1286558019?ign-mpt=uo%3D4) so they can look at the planet in augmented reality.

It's always interesting to look back at the Sun and Earth to see how far they are, and to keep in mind that the scale is about 1:6000000000.

All Replies

Posted on December 02, 2023

Perfect timing, Dr Pat! We are working on this right now. I just need to gather the equipment. Counting the steps is fun - although how big are the steps?!! :) Great idea about placing the orange cones to mark each planet, and the SolAR app is new to me so thank you!


Posted on December 07, 2023

To be completely accurate it would be close to a 1 m ( almost 3 feet) step, but I usually ask the students to take normal walking steps. Even if the steps are a little on the sort side, the distance is huge to get to the end of our solar system, and the planets are really small and the students definitely get this out of the walk!

Posted on December 04, 2023

What a great hands on way to experience how large our Solar System is! It could be fun to have the kids create a time lapse video walking the distance of the Solar System they created!

Posted on February 01, 2024

Great idea to add a time lapse video!

Posted on December 05, 2023

LOVE this! Thanks for sharing! I teach space science so I will be using this information.

Posted on December 07, 2023

Thanks so much for sharing this!

Posted on February 01, 2024

Fantastic activity! I've added this to my plans for our Earth & Space science unit we have coming up!

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