This activity was developed by the staff of the MMSD Planetarium. All are welcome to download, print, and copy this activity. Please also feel free to pass this activity on to other teachers, but only in its entirety. Permission for re-distribution can be obtained by contacting our office.
About the activity
This activity allows you and your students to experience the sizes and distances of the planets on the same scale. Most similar activities use a different scale for each, which can cause misconceptions. Almost every diagram we've seen leads us to the impression that the Solar System is much more "full" than it really is. Students find it difficult to understand why it takes so long to send a space probe out to another planet. This activity gives them a more complete perspective.
In this activity, the teacher has the option of having the students complete the scaling calculations, he/she can provide the data for the students, or even set up the entire model for the students to simply experience.
The activity guide includes student pages, teacher pages, and answers to the questions on the student pages. Background information and variations are discussed.
Use OUR model when you visit!
If you plan a 2 hour visit to the planetarium, you could stroll through OUR 1 kilometer scale model of the solar system in front of Memorial High School. These arrangements can be made when making your planetarium reservations. Take a virtual tour of our model as a preview.
Obtaining a copy of this activity
The Solar System Stroll activity is available for download (copy permission is granted for educational use, but not for redistribution for profit).
There are two separate versions of the activity. Please review the following descriptions and choose the appropriate file to download.
Solar System Stroll (MMSD Version 3.0, 9/23/11; 126k): this version is for teachers in the Madison Metropolitan School District to use with the Solar System Stroll kit (including the stainless-steel plates) which is available through the Science Materials Center. If you are an MMSD teacher and would like to borrow this kit, contact the MMSD Science Materials Center Technician. The sidewalk outside the planetarium (adjacent to Memorial HS) is an ideal location for this activity. You may borrow the planetarium's kit for use on-site. You can preview the model at our location using our Picasa web album which links to Google Maps and Google Earth. Non-MMSD teachers are still welcome to download and use this version if you find it helpful, or to use when you visiti the planetarium.
Solar System Stroll Version 2.1 (3/27/00; 150k): this version is for teachers to use with wooden stakes drilled with the appropriate sized hole.
NOTE: If you are unable to download and print the activity, please call our office, and we will either help you download it, or send you a copy.
Solar System Stroll Cards
Cards to accompany the Solar System Stroll Activity (Version 1.2, 04/8/02 (82k) have planetary facts and scaled sizes of the planets.
MMSD Teachers can borrow the kit!
The Solar System Stroll kit is available through the MMSD Science Materials Center. It contains the stainless steel plates that show the planet sizes, planet plate holders, and instructions. If you are an MMSD teacher and would like to borrow this kit, email the MMSD Science Materials Center Technician.
When we use this activity at the MMSD Planetarium, we use the sidewalk on the west side of Memorial High School, next to Gammon Road. If you start with the sun near the Lussier Community Center (next to Jefferson Middle School), the dwarf planet Pluto is about 1 kilometer away, at the intersection with Odana Road. The virtual tour can be explored using our Picasa web album, which can also be viewed in Google Maps and Google Earth (Google Earth must installed on your computer).