Journey around the solar system

I spent last Friday working with two Year 5 classes at Wyvern Primary School in Leicester as we explored an alternative method of teaching the Sun, Earth and Moon module. (scheme of work).

Working alongside one of the Y5 teachers and another artist Linda Harding we designed two days of activities. The first, with Linda, in which the pupils made models of the planets and then the second with me where planets and pupils went outside…

Jupiter and a slightly inconveniently located water hazard

The day I worked on was split into 2 2-hour sessions, one with each class. I burst into the lesson, announced launch to be in T minus 20 minutes and set about calling out the crew names whilst the teacher set the countdown timer going on the whiteboard.

After locating notebooks, donning space helmets and checking our gravity boots I gave them the mission brief: NASA had ‘acquired’ a couple of items that claimed to be some sort of aid for travellers. I played them a sample entry:


Our mission was a fact-finding one – we had to check the accuracy of the Guide’s entries in order to determine if we wanted to try and obtain the full version (the versions we had were trial versions limited to the solar system only).

After launch and hyper drive out to the edge of the field solar system, our teams of astronauts navigated their way sun-wards visiting different planets and checking the information given by the Guide against what they already knew or could deduce.

Unfortunately the entry for planet Earth was entirely unacceptable, so we agreed to spend time collating our own facts which we would then send to the publishers so they could put this straight.

I placed the planets out on the field so the relative distances between them were correctly scaled (although I forgot to get an orbit diameter for the moon). The planets themselves were not to scale, which is just as well because with these distances between them, we’d have had to have made the Sun 15cm across and Earth only 1.3mm across.

The planets at their relative distances from the Sun

A favourite moment was glancing back onto the field after I’d placed the planets in position to see a crowd of dogwalkers and dogs gathered around Saturn scratching their heads and wondering what was going on!

Dogwalkers in orbit around Saturn