Overview: Dwarf planet, Pluto facts

of "Fast Facts: Dwarf planet, Pluto"
Fast Facts: Dwarf planet, Pluto is a table that lists Pluto's age, location, average distance from the Sun, diameter, mass, orbital period around the Sun, number of moons, and distinguishing features. The text touches upon some of the issues surrounding whether Pluto should be considered a planet. A processed image, called a "map," of Pluto's surface is included. There are similar tables for other dwarf planets.
Format(s) available: Printer-friendly Web page
Grades: Adaptable, at teacher's discretion
How to use it in the classroom

Fast Facts: Dwarf planet, Pluto can be used alone to:

Find information about Pluto.

Fast Facts: Dwarf planet, Pluto can be used with the other planet-themed tables to:

Practice reading tables. Give each student a planet-themed Fast Facts table. Ask them to find the number of moons or the diameters of their respective planets.

Recognize and order large numbers. Have students read the tables to find each planet's distance from the Sun. Then ask them to arrange the planets according to their distance from the Sun, from closest to farthest. Alternatively, have the students arrange the planets according to their mass and/or their diameter, from smallest to largest.

Practice conversions. Have students change the distances in either kilometers or miles into astronomical units. One astronomical unit (AU) is the average distance from Earth to the Sun, which equals 149,600,000 km, or 92,960,000 miles.

Compare features of the planets. Have students match each planet to a statement that describes a unique feature of that planet, such as, "This planet is closest to the Sun," "This planet has two moons," or "This is the largest known dwarf planet." Either the teacher or the student can generate the statements using information from the planet-themed Fast Facts.

Teacher-generated statements
As an introduction to the planets, have students use the planet-themed Fast Facts tables to match the statement to the planet. As an assessment after studying the planets, have students match the statement to the planet without using the planet-themed Fast Facts tables.

Student-generated statements
Form groups of students and have the groups use the Fast Facts tables to write statements about a unique feature of each planet without naming the planet. Students should record each planet's description in random order on one sheet of paper and their answers on another paper. Collect the description and the answer sheets from each group. Redistribute the description sheets making sure each group receives another group's planet description. Have the groups read the descriptions and identify the planets without looking at the Fast Facts tables. Afterward, compare each group's descriptions of the planets. This could be done by selecting a planet and asking each group to read its planet description. Were the descriptions similar or different?

Fast Facts: Dwarf planet, Pluto can be used with question 15 in "Q&A: Our solar system" to decide whether Pluto should be classified as a dwarf planet or a major planet. After students have read question 15 and the "Fast Facts: Dwarf planet, Pluto" table, they can compose an essay explaining whether they think Pluto should remain a dwarf planet or be reclassified as a major planet. Students should support their choice with evidence.

Related materials

See the Solar System section on "Teaching tools" page.

Overview: Dwarf planet, Pluto facts