Exploring Space

Earth's cycles and the solar system is probably one of my favorite science units to teach. Lucky for me, there has always been a unit that allows me to teach all of that Earth and space goodness in whether I was 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade!

When I first began the unit this year, I forgot about some of the oldies but goodies that I had.  This year I mixed a little new with the tried and true. Here are a few of the things we have enjoyed so far during our unit...
I've found lots of great picture books about the solar system and the study of space in the last few years. Here are some of our favorite books that we have shared throughout our unit.

As we read and have discussions, students add important information to their notebooks. Rather than gluing things in, I like for students to create their own pictures, illustrations, and diagrams.

I don't know about yours, but my students are much better about referring to their notes when it's time to apply knowledge when they are creating the information put in the notebooks.

QR Code Research Mats are one of my sneaky ways to get students to learn more about a topic. (Don't tell them that!) When I want students to have quick access to information, I create mats like this and add them to a station and then later to our classroom library.


Throughout the unit students worked on creating 3D models to display and teach the planets that make up our solar system. They also recorded Flipgrid videos about each of the characteristics of each planet. We play games like Race Through Space as a fun way to recall the information and facts the students are responsible for knowing.

Identifying the moon's phases is almost always a STRUGGLE! No matter how many times I demonstrate with a globe and a flash light or explain, I have a good number of student who just can't make sense of these phases.

It's not until I began using this model that students truly GOT IT. This is so easy to make, and gives students a great visual understanding of the moon's phases. It's also much cheaper than purchaisng models from big companies. You can click here to grab the materials I used.

Making a Moon Phase Model
First, I found the center of my poster board and used a compass to trace a circle in the middle of the board. You can just as easily trace something, but I made this along with the students and I wanted to put our new found understanding of circles and circumference to good use. (I have to show the kids how useful math is every chance I get lol!)  Just be sure the hole is wide enough for students to place over their heads.

Next, I painted half of each of the styrofoam balls black to represent the side of the moon that does receive light from the sun. 

Once each of the "moons" had time to dry, I used a hot glue gun and placed them around the hole I cut in the center. That's it! Now the model is ready for student use. 

Directions for Using:
Students should take turns "viewing the moon from Earth" by sticking their head in circle. Have them start by facing the moon with all black in front of them. Have the student move in a counter clockwise direction so that they are seeing the moon's phases in the correct order (new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, last quarter, waning crescent).

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