Toilet Paper Solar System - Scale Model
- Lesson Plan
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The distances between our planets are so vast they are almost incomprehensible. Visualize the expansiveness of our “cosmic neighborhood” with a roll of toilet paper to create a scale model.
Construct an explanation that differences in the apparent brightness of the Sun compared to other stars is due to the relative distance (scale) of stars from Earth.
Use computational thinking to analyze data and determine the scale and properties of objects in the solar system.
- A roll of toilet paper for each group or student
- Clear tape to repair toilet paper tears- 1 for each group or student (Optional)
- 1 marker for each group or student
- A way to mark the sun
- Rocks/weights to keep TP from blowing if outside
- Toilet Paper Solar System worksheet for each student
- Students can use coins or other small round objects to represent planets.
This is a fun activity that students can do by themselves at home using the worksheet. This activity presents a great opportunity for students to step away from the screen to learn science.
We have several videos available to discuss extremophiles. Check them out first to determine which ones you want to share with your class to deepen the activity.
Our solar system is so immense that the distances in space can be difficult for anyone to comprehend. In this activity, students will unroll a roll of toilet paper to build a scale model of distances in the solar system. While understanding these distances, students will explore why the sun is so essential to life on earth by examining the temperatures of each planet relative to the distance away from the sun. They will grasp that the location of the earth from the sun allows for life to be sustained due to the perfect amount of heat and energy produced by the sun.
Notes for teachers
- 100 sheets of toilet paper stretch out to nearly 42 feet.
- Be aware that even slight wind can blow toilet paper, you can ask students to place rocks on TP if you are working outdoors.
- Planets do not have to all be in a line! The planets in our solar system lie in a general circle around our sun. If you have the space- tell students to spread their planets out. It will demonstrate distance better than if planets are all in one line.
- If doing this activity virtually, ask students to print the worksheet, do their model at home, and submit a photo of their model with a photo or scan of their answers to the questions on the worksheet.
Directions- Activity #1- Build your scale solar system model
- Provide each student or student group with a worksheet.
- Place something to designate the sun. You will always be starting at the sun.
- Instruct students to use their worksheet table and toilet paper to find the scaled distance of the planets from the sun.
- The number in the table is the number of sheets of toilet paper needed to reach the orbit of each planet. Each time they will start counting their toilet paper squares from the sun.
- Have them repeat this for their second planet and then the rest of the 8 planets.
- In real life the planets are not laid out in a single line. If space allows, encourage students to think about how they should place their planets to best represent the real solar system.
- Once their models are created, have students write the planets average temperature in marker on the toilet paper by each planet.
- Have students answer the questions on the worksheet to make a connection about the sun’s role in temperature throughout the solar system.
- You can end your activity and discussion with some fun videos, click on the video tab above to access:
- Bill Nye Demonstrates Distance Between Planets
- As an extension, you can discuss Extremophiles (life that lives in extreme conditions and often does not need sunlight for survival) with your class. There are 2 great videos on the video tab placed after the Bill Nye video.
- Please view the PDF for the answers and additional information to the worksheet.