Solar System Trading Cards
Teacher Page: Lesson Plan



Desired Learning Outcomes
New Vocabulary
General Misconceptions
Preparation Time
Execution Time
Physical Layout of Room
Follow-up Activities/Extensions
One Computer Classroom
Classrooms Without Computers
Home Schooler

  • Goal/Purpose:
  • The purpose of this lesson is for students to acquire information about objects in the solar system while collecting solar system trading cards through interactive computer use.

  • Desired Learning Outcomes:
    1. The students should know that the Earth is one of several planets that orbit the sun.
    2. The students should know that nine planets of very different size, composition and surface features move around the sun in nearly circular orbits.
    3. The students should know that some planets have rock and ice particles orbiting around them.
    4. The students should know that asteroids and comets are part of the solar system.
  • Prerequisites:
  • Students will need a third-grade reading level.

    Students will need ability to use a computer mouse to point and click on choices.

  • New Vocabulary:
  • Atmosphere
    The gases surrounding a space object, for example, the atmosphere surrounding earth.

    A hole or depression formed on impact with a smaller object.

    The distance of a line from one side of a sphere to the opposite side that passes through the center.

    Wearing away the surface by wind or water

    Anything that establishes a fact or gives reason for believing something.

    A massive system of stars held together by their mutual gravity.

    Hubble Space Telescope
    The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is an automated reflecting telescope, which orbits the Earth above the atmosphere, built by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Space Administration. It contains instruments capable of receiving many types of radiation.

    The path a satellite takes around a celestial body.

    An instrument used to view distant objects in space.

  • General Misconceptions:
  • The solar system centers around the Earth.

    Scientists know all there is to know about the solar system.

    Earth is the largest object in the solar system.

    Stars and galaxies are part of the solar system.

    The sun is not a star.

    Engagement activity number one offers an opportunity to elicit student preconceptions.

  • Preparation Time:
  • Teacher should allow time to locate the website and preview the game.

  • Execution Time:
  • 30-45 minutes

  • Physical Layout of Room:
  • Students can work in groups of two or individually in a computer lab. Adaptations can be made to accommodate classrooms with only a single computer with Internet access. This might include using an overhead projector with an LCD that projects the computer image on a screen or a hookup from a computer to a television monitor.

    You can also complete "Solar System Trading Cards" off-line. Various software programs provide off-line access to the Internet. Their programs allow you to save Web pages to your local hard drive. Using your Netscape browser, you can open the Web pages locally and experience the lesson as if you were viewing it on the Internet. Using this option, however, will deny students access to the references (identified in the Grab Bag pages) available on the World Wide Web.

  • Materials:
  • Procedure/Directions:
  • This is a self-directed interactive computer game. Working independently or in small groups, students will view an image accompanied by a question with three answer choices. They will use the mouse to click on their chosen answer. The students continue the game by making choices on successive screens. The students are assessed at the end of the game with a list of correctly identified solar system objects. Cards collected are shown on the screen as highlighted images.

  • Evaluation/Assessment:
  • Students can be evaluated by their individual success with the card collection. Other suggestions are:

  • Follow-up activities:
    1. Students collect the Solar System Trading Cards downloadable version found in the Grab Bag page using the questions at the bottom of the cards.
    2. Students will order the planets using the distance from the Sun data included in the Solar System Data Table.
    3. Students will order the planets and the sun using the diameter data included in the Solar System Data Table.
    4. Students will work in cooperative groups to construct models of the solar system using the information from the Solar System Trading Cards and other data.
    5. Students will work in groups to construct / describe a human habitat for a specific planet. Students will use the Solar System Trading Cards to help in acquiring planet information.
    6. Students will make a graph comparing the information given about a planet's atmosphere or composition.
    7. Students work in pairs. One pair of students (A) will sort the Solar System Trading Cards into groups without telling the other pair of students (B) their strategy. Pair (B) will name each group, and describe the group characteristics.
    8. Students will create / draw a patch, or logo, for a mission to a planet / space object of their choice. Students should be able to justify choices.
    9. Students will select an object in the solar system and write a letter to the Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute to persuade him / her to use the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the object.
    10. This activity may need to be done outside the classroom. Students will construct a human model representing distances of planets from the sun using the following chart:
    11. Planet Distance Scale
      Mercury 5 inches
      Venus 9 inches
      Earth 1 foot
      Mars 1 foot 6 inches
      Jupiter 5 feet 2 inches
      Saturn 9 feet 6 inches
      Uranus 19 feet
      Neptune 30 feet
      Pluto 39 feet

    12. Students will convert the above distances to metric units.
    13. Students will construct a chart showing double and triple values of the above information.
    14. Students will compare the diameter of the planets using the following chart:
    15. Planet Size Scale
      Mercury 2 cm
      Venus 5 cm
      Earth 5 cm
      Mars 2.5 cm
      Jupiter 57 cm
      Saturn 48 cm
      Uranus 20.5 cm
      Neptune 19.5 cm
      Pluto 1 cm

    16. Students will convert the units above to English units.
    17. Students will construct a chart showing double and triple values of the above information.
    18. Students will develop a mnemonic device to help them remember the names and order of the planets.
    19. Students will create their own questions for the Solar System Trading Cards game.
    20. Students will write questions and receive answers to questions through the WWW sites:
    21. Students will write and illustrate a "What if...." story. Have them write a story about extraterrestrial life on a planet of their choice. What characteristics would the "creatures" have and why would they need them to survive on that planet?

  • One Computer Classroom:

    It is recommended that teachers project the images from the computer onto a classroom screen using an overhead LCD or television screen. Here are two suggestions to facilitate a large group presentation and avoid last minute glitches that can always occur when using the Internet. Bookmark a selected part of the lesson that you wish to use and download it onto your hard disk. This will eliminate the inconvenience of the Internet going off-line unexpectedly. Another way to prepare is to print ahead of time selected parts of the lesson as paper copies.

    Hardcopy versions of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA missions of the solar system are also available at your closest NASA Educator Resource Center.

  • Classrooms Without Computers:

    Here are some suggestions:

    1. If you have access to a computer with World Wide Web capabilities at home or in the school library, you may print selected parts of the lesson as paper copies or transparencies.

    2. If your school has one or more computers located outside your classroom, i.e. library, computer lab, students may experience the lesson individually or in small groups as a learning station or as a supplement to your solar system unit.

    3. Some students might have computers at home with access to the Internet. If that's the case, you might consider assigning the Solar System Trading Cards lesson as homework or extra credit.

    4. NASA has available FREE at your closest NASA Educator Resource Center lithographs and posters related to the solar system which can be used as teaching tools in the classroom.

  • Home Schooler:

    This lesson is easily followed without additional teacher support if the prerequisites are met. Parents can preview the lesson and examine the teacher pages ahead of time. A wealth of information can be found at Hubblesite, the Hubble Space Telescope's website at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Here you can find background information on the telescope, pictures and news releases of past and present stories, education activities, and other science resources.

    More information for the home-schooled can be found at:

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