Teaching Process Skills with Children’s Literature: The Planet Hunter

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How many planets are there in our solar system? It’s eight, right? Didn’t we used to have nine? In Elizabeth Rusch’s The Planet Hunter, we follow the story of astronomer Mike Brown in his discoveries that led to the reclassification of Pluto.

Rusch walks the reader through Mike Brown’s thought process and research as he discovers bodies in space, one of which is bigger than Pluto.

What do my discoveries really mean? Mike asked himself. Perhaps astronomers were wrong to call Pluto a planet in the first place. After all, Pluto’s so much smaller than the other planets. And it floats near Eris and Quaoar and a bunch of other objects just like it.
Even scientists make mistakes, Mike thought.

The story of this book is attention-grabbing, but what really brings Mike Brown’s adventures to life are illustrations by Guy Francis. Brown is portrayed in the book as a friendly and curious young man, a character who is easy to relate to, since he’s drawn just as students might picture themselves.

Curriculum Connections
This book could be used in the upper elementary school grades to teach about scientific investigation, reasoning, and logic. In Virginia, The Planet Hunter can be used in connection with SOL 5.1 where students investigate and understand the nature of science, a constantly changing field of continuous observation and trial through the scientific method.

Additional Resources

  • Here is a lesson plan from Education World about how we are constantly learning and discovering information about our solar system.
  • This is Mike Brown’s website. Here he shares his latest news.
  • In the activity The Earth is a Peppercorn, posted by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, students explore and compare the size of planets and their distances from each other.

Book: The Planet Hunter
Author:
Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrator:
Guy Francis
Publisher:
Rising Moon
Publication Date:
2007
Pages:
29 pages
Grades:
K-3
ISBN:
0-87358-926-2