Earth and the Solar System

A walk through the Universe

Supports National Curriculum, Key Stages 1D, 3F, 5E
Suitable for years 4,5 and 6. The first sections might be suitable for year 3.

The time for whole session is about 45 minutes. This can be varied depending on the length of time allowed for children’s questions.

Outline of content
Primary aim:

  • To develop children's understanding of the solar system and the wider universe, especially as regards sizes and distances of objects within and beyond the solar system

Secondary aims:

  • To enhance children's knowledge of the planets of the solar system, particularly their ordering and relative sizes
  • To develop the Copernican picture of the universe (i.e. we do not occupy a special place - the Earth is not the most important planet in the solar system, the Milky Way contains 100,000,000,000 stars broadly similar to the Sun, the Milky Way is only one of billions of similar galaxies, etc.)
  • To give children a sense of the scale of the solar system and the Universe
  • To provide examples of the finite speed of light and its use in understanding distances in astronomy
  • To correct children's misconceptions regarding space and astronomy

Points to note:

  • The story that accompanies the slides in the PowerPoint presentation (4.7 MB) is described in the script.
  • Apparatus details are linked to from the relevant sections of the script.
  • There is a list of useful facts that will help to answer children’s questions.
  • No special safety precautions are needed.

Misconceptions - i.e. points that are often misunderstood

  • There is no gravity in space
  • The Earth is the biggest planet in the solar system
  • The stars are only just beyond the furthest planet
  • Stars and planets are essentially similar objects

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