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3. How Big is the Sun? Exploring the Size and Scale of the Sun, Earth and Moon
Sun Image

See the Activity in Action Summary of Activity:
Students will explore the relative sizes of the Sun, Earth and Moon as they make an impressive large-scale model for classroom use throughout the unit.

Duration of Activity:
This activity can be done in small sections over several days.

Student Prerequisites:
Students should have a basic understanding of the Sun. Whole class reading and independent reading will enrich background information on this topic.

Materials:

  • Butcher paper
  • Yellow, orange, red and black tempera paint
  • Pencil or marker
  • White construction paper cut into 2-inch x 4-inch pieces for labels
  • Tape
  • Sponges and brushes
  • Half-inch round Avery adhesive labels (blue)
  • 4 small pins with round heads to place across the half-inch round label

Teacher Preparation:
15 minutes to prepare paper for painting the Sun. Outline a large circle with a diameter of 54.5 inches to represent the Sun for this activity. Allow time to locate other materials and to copy work sheets if doing the extension math activity.

Work Sheets:

"How Big the Sun?" Work Sheets
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"Greater Than," "Equal To" and "Less Than" Printable Classroom Signs
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Objectives:

Students will:
  1. Draw and paint a model of the Sun.
  2. Learn that 109 Earths span the diameter of the Sun.
  3. Learn that 4 Moons span the diameter of the Earth.

View National Standards AddressedGrade Level:
Grades 1-3

Procedure:
Day One
Language and Art Activity

  1. Students take turns painting the Sun with yellow, red and orange tempera. Start with the lightest paint for optimal effects. You can save some time by starting with yellow butcher paper and painting with red and orange tempera. Excellent images of the Sun can be found at http://umbra.nascom.nasa.gov/images/

  2. Ask students to name features of the Sun to include on the model and write them on the board. The words below are a good place to start:

    Corona Moon Magnetic Loop
    Solar flare Earth Diameter
    Sunspot Prominence Gas

  3. Let painting dry overnight.

Day Two
Language and Art Activity

  1. Continue with painting. The granules of the Sun’s surface can be achieved by sponging darker colors across the painting.
  2. Encourage students to paint details such as sunspots, prominences, and solar flares.
  3. After completing painting, ask students to write vocabulary words on the 2-inch x 4-inch labels.
  4. After model has dried, cut it out and display on the wall.
  5. Students take turns gluing the vocabulary labels to the Sun.
  6. The model can be the focal point for your expanding “Science Word Wall” with new vocabulary displayed around and on the Sun.

Day Three
Science and Math Activity

  1. Discuss the enormous size of the Sun in contrast to the Earth and the Moon.
  2. Ask students to imagine that one round blue label is the Earth.
  3. Ask a group of students to place the round labels across the diameter of the Sun.
  4. After placing the labels, ask students to count them in intervals of ten.
  5. Mark each group of ten.
  6. You will find that approximately 109 Earths span the diameter of the Sun.
  7. Explain that it takes four Moons to cover the diameter of the Earth.
  8. Tell students that one small pin represents the Moon. Ask how many pins are needed to span the diameter of Earth.
  9. Place four small pins with round white heads across the blue label.
  10. HINT: Be sure to start the labels at the edge of your 54.5-inch circle—otherwise you may end up with more than 109 "Earths" spanning the diameter!
  11. "Signs" for reinforcing the comparative sizes of the Sun, Earth and Moon can be printed and displayed near your Sun model.

Extension Activity:
This model of comparative sizes provides a good opportunity for discussing and practicing the mathematical concepts and symbols representing "greater than," "less than," and "equal to." The student work sheets for this lesson (at left) support classroom mathematics activities.

Assessment:
A whole-class discussion of the Sun and its size relative to the Earth and Moon can be started with the following discussion questions:

  1. What is bigger, the Earth or the Sun?
  2. How many “Earths” does it take to cover the diameter of the Sun?
  3. What is bigger, the Earth or the Moon?
  4. How many Moons does it take to cover the diameter of the Earth?
  5. How many Moons do you think it will take to cover the Sun?

Extension:
This model of comparative sizes provides a good opportunity for discussing and practicing the mathematical concepts and symbols representing “greater than,” “less than” and “equal to.” The work sheet can be used to support your classroom math activities.

Bibliography:
See related books and websites.

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