Archive for the 'space science' Category

The Solar System



The topic of space can be interesting and even thrilling when presented in the correct manner. In the fourth grade students are learning about our solar system. They will learn about the planets that revolve around the sun, including their order, size, and properties. They will also study the relationships between the sun, the earth, and the moon. The most important vocabulary terms for this SOL (4.7) are revolution and rotation.


Our Solar System by Seymour Simon


Seymour Simon is an award winning author who worked with the Smithsonian Institution to create a newly revised book on space. Our Solar System is the perfect introductory book for students as they begin learning about space. The book is filled with gorgeous pictures taken from space. They images will captivate the young audience and intrigue them, pushing them to learn further. Each of the 8 planets receives a brief introduction. While this book does not give incredibly detailed lessons on the planets, it piques students’ curiosity.

 Earth: Our Planet in Space by Seymour Simon


Another book by Seymour Simon, Earth: Our Planet in Space explores our Earth, Sun and Moon. As students study the planets, they will inevitably question “why isn’t there life on other planets.” This book delves into the unique position of our earth in space, and the reasons why we can survive here, why there is day and night, and much more. Stunning photography keeps students interested as they read the information.

The Moon by Seymour Simon


Introductory facts about our moon are set off by newly colored photographs (the first edition from 1984 was black and white). Students will enjoy learning new things about the moon. This book is a perfect way to start a lesson. It’s easy to read alone or with a friend before delving into a classroom discussion.

 Footprints on the Moon by Alexandra Siy


Filled with humorous quotes from astronauts, and interesting accounts from previous apollo missions, Footprints on the Moon gives students their first introduction to space exploration. It gives students a brief history of rocketry, and inspires the idea that there is still so much to discover about our universe.

 Uranus – the Seventh Planet by Michael D. Cole


Uranus – the Seventh Planet is part of a series that explores every planet in our solar system. Each book takes students through the features, sizes and moons of each planet. Close up pictures gives students a sense of the magnitude, beauty, and mystery that surround the planets.

 Teacher Resources

Think of fun lessons and hands on activities to use as you explore space with you class. This site offers lesson plans for activities that will get students directly involved. On the left side-bar, click on any of the outer space subjects that you want to focus on for the class.

 This resource lets you explore each planet.  It gives teachers a brief overview of the planets, with fun facts and important details to share with the class. The website is perfect for a quick review before creating or teaching a lesson.

Another resource shows teachers how to make homemade craters with their class.  This is a great activity for fourth graders; they can get a little messy, while still understanding the “impact” that craters make, and utilizing their math skills.

This resource gives teacher’s ideas for livening up the classroom. It features lesson ideas, as well as fun activities and projects to do as a class.

Resources for Kids


Discover what will be in tonight’s sky.  A short video clip will show students where they can find certain constellations and planets in the sky. The video will be relevant for whatever date they view it on.

Students will love competing in the Moon Olympics.  This game shows students how gravity effects our lives. In a silly and fun way, students can discover what sports would be like in space.

Students can complete this puzzle to show that they know the order and location of the planets in our solar system.

This memory/matching game asks students to match the picture of an object with its vocabulary term.

This interactive website gives student the basic important facts about each of the 9 planets (it includes Pluto) and our sun. The resource is easy to read, interesting, and animated to keep the students focused.

Moon Phases

The topic covered is Moon Phases. Moon Phases fall under the SOL 3.8. Moon phases can be a tricky topic to teach without some great visuals. I have listed some of the best books, and online resources that I have found on the subject. Resources listed below are geared toward third graders.

Book Resources

Phases of the Moon

 Phases of the Moon, by Gillia M. Olson

This book explains moon phases in very simple language. Diagrams in the book are helpful and easy to understand. The book’s pictures are so great that this book is recommended for struggling readers trying to understand the concept of moon phases.

The Moon Seems to Change, by Franklyn M. Branley and illustrated by Barbra and Ed Emberley.

This book is recommended to accompany your science text. It’s a great supplement to teaching the concept of moon phases. The books includes great diagrams and pictures.

The Moon, byDavid Jefferis

This book features photos from NASA! The book is now in it’s new edition. It features great color pictures and information about the moon.

The Moon

The Moon Book, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons writes and illustrates a fantastic book. This book is the best book for sharing with third graders about the subject.

When You Look Up at the Moon, written by Allan Fowler

Good book for children that may not have prior knowledge about the moon. This book is a great starting point.

Web sites for children

Lunar Cycle Challenge Game The object of this game is for the children to drag the moon to their correct place in the lunar cycle.

Moon Phase Order This site features the moon phases in random order and the children can put them in the correct order and check for correctness. Great game for children to play together!

Moon Phase Flashcards This site would be great for children to use as a tutorial when preparing for a moon phase quiz! You click on the flashcards to review all phases of the moon.

How Long Does a Moon Phase Last? This site will help children to understand how long moon phases last. It also has a great visual of the Earth, moon, ans sun as the moon goes through it’s phases. The site offers easy to follow demonstrations as well.

Moon Phases-The Basics Great site for children to read about the moon’s phases. It’s answers basic questions about the moon’s phases.

Resources for teachers

Moon Phase Stations You will find an actual lesson plan that is filled with learning stations that you can set up to help your children better understand the topic.

Activities for Most Ages There are moon phase activities for grades K-12. This site is helpful to those who need activities to accommodate and challenge students alike.

Science Online This site includes demonstrations, lesson plans, printables, and much more!

Challenge Great questions and answers about the moon. These questions would be great to challenge students or to put up on the board for the question of the day!

The Planets

The following resources are intended for a range of elementary grades but fit specifically with the VA Science SOLs 4.7 and 6.8. In the fourth and sixth grades students learn about characteristics of the planets, the moon and the sun, as well as other aspects of our solar system such as other moons, asteroids and comets. These books, websites and additional resources  can therefore be used across the grades to help students learn all about our solar system (and beyond!).


The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System


By Joanna Cole (Author) and Bruce Degen (Illustrator)

This book, from the famous Magic School Bus series, chronicles the class’ trip to outer space. When something goes terribly wrong, however, and Miss Frizzle loses her class, the students must use clues about the planets to find her location in space. While this book may be intended for a younger audience, it provides a fun introduction to the different planets, and the composition of the solar system, that a variety of ages will enjoy.

Solar System: A Journey to the Planets and Beyond


By Ian Graham

This exciting book mixes 3D photographs and illustrations to give a brief background about each of the planets. It also contains information about missions to space, particularly the Mars Rover  and Apollo 11 missions, and provides pop up pages to provide more information in an interactive manner.

Discover the Planets


By Cynthia Pratt Nicolson (Author) and Bill Slavin (Illustrator)

While this book is meant for those aged 4-8, it provides a wealth of information regarding the differences between the planets, why the sun shines, and how the planets travel around the sun. It could be an excellent tool for differentiation or an introduction to a unit on the planets.

11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System


By David A. Aguilar

This book was written in response to the declaration that Pluto is no longer a planet and therefore chronicles not only the traditional eight planets but the dwarf planets as well. Included in the book are charts of planet statistics such as diameter and temperature. Because it goes beyond a simple study of the milky way and introduces other galaxies and sometimes uses complex vocabulary, this book is recommended more for sixth grade than fourth grade study.



By Carole Stott

This book uses dramatic photographs to provide in detail looks at the moon, the sun and the planets as well as an introduction to the milky way and other solar systems. This book is unique in that it also discusses the possibility of life on other planets (or the impossibility) and the future of space travel. It provides a comprehensive glossary that could be great for students’ research.


The Planets of our Solar System for Kids

This website uses a very simple layout (that facilitates students exploring it on their own) that explains characteristics of the planets like rotation, temperature, size and the Roman origin of their names. Links to information are provide in the form of photographs of the planets, giving students a reference for knowing what the planets look like.

StarChild: A Learning Center for Young Astronomers

This website, developed by a division of NASA researchers, is intended to provide students with information about the shape of the solar system, the location of the planets, and definitions of other space phenomena like asteroids, comets and black holes. It also provides a glossary and links to many games and activities that can be used in the classroom.

Astronomy for Kids- The Solar System

This section of the website, Astronomy for Kids, provides an interactive diagram of the milky way, complete with rotating planets, comets and asteroids. Students can click on one of the rotating objects to learn more about it and see pictures. By clicking on different links, students can learn about the different moons of the planets as well.

Bitesize- Earth, Sun and Moon

This activity, provided by the BBC, helps students learn about how the earth, sun and moon orbit around each other. By inputting a number of months, students can try to make the earth orbit around the sun a certain amount of times. A moving diagram shows how the moon orbits the earth while the earth orbits the sun and students can click on each to find more information about their characteristics.

Blast Off on a Trip Into Our Solar System!

Harcourt publishers presents this website in which students can see photographs and positioning of the planets. By clicking on the planet photos, students learn information like why each planet looks the way it does, which number it is away from the sun, why seasons exist and how many days each planet takes to orbit the sun.

Additional Resources

First Space Encyclopedia


By DK Publishing

This book would serve as an excellent classroom reference for any space or solar system unit. It tackles tough questions like, what space is, when it began and how it began as well as exploring space related subjects like satellites, stars, space exploration, astronomers and much more. By combining photos and text of varying sizes DK Publishing has created a very readable encyclopedia.

How the Universe Works: 100 Ways Parents and Kids Can Share the Secrets of the Universe

By Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest

This book is full of activities that can be used in the classroom for a variety of lessons on space. Activities are divided up between those that help explain the solar system, the sun, the stars and the cosmos (or the galaxies beyond). This book explains how parents and children (or students and teachers) can use the activities included to create a “Home Laboratory” and a “Home Observatory” of their own.

Space School- The Solar System

This video, from the Space School series and presented by DiscoveryTV on YouTube, uses beautiful images to explain to students the workings of the universe. This movie explains how the universe was formed, why the planets rotate the sun and what the planets, asteroids, sun and moon are made of, all in the fun format of a space teacher talking to a group of students in a futuristic space school.

Amazing Pop-Up Space Atlas


By DK Publishing

This book describes the planets of the milky way, the sun and the moon using a variety of interactive charts, pop-ups and pull-outs that students could be posted around the classroom, copied as a reference for individual students, or kept in the classroom library as an excellent reference source.

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Don’t Know Much About the Solar System



Don’t Know Much About the Solar System, written by  Kenneth C. Davis and illustrated by Pedro Martin, is an informative children’s book filled with interesting facts and cartoonlike pictures.  Motivated middle and upper elementary students might read this book from cover to cover while others might choose to explore only the pages that are most interesting to them.   Each two-page spread contains a title and then several related questions.  Each question is followed by an answer and explanation.  Some of the questions and answers are humorous.  The pages are generally lighthearted but factual.  Topics covered include galaxies, solar system, gravity, planets, stars, meteors, space exploration, and an introduction to a few of the scientists who have contributed to our space knowledge.

Curriculum Connections

This book can be used to teach about the solar system and the planets in Fourth Grade (SOL 4.7).  The pictures show the orbits of the planets in the solar system.  Most of the planets are described within a two-page spread complete with illustrations.

Additional Resources

For audio learners, listen to the planet rap song.

Allow students to explore kid friendly websites for additional solar system facts.

Create a solar system simulation in your classroom.

General Information

Book:  Don’t Know Much About the Solar System
Author:  Kenneth C. Davis
Illustrator:  Pedro Martin
Publisher:  Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date:  2001
Pages:  47
Grade Range:  3rd-6th
ISBN:  0-439-43852-7

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: 11 Planets!


National Geographic’s 11 Planets, written by David Aguilar, is one of the best kid-friendly reference texts on the planets. Up-to-date and full of amazingly vivid computer graphics, 11 Planets teaches students about the new definition of the term “planet” and introduces Ceres in the Asteroid Belt and Eris in the Kuiper Belt. Each planet is given an individual two page spread including a brief informative narrative, three fun facts, a reference to Greek/Roman mythology, its orbit’s position around the sun, and unbelievable graphics.

Curriculum Connections

This is an amazing resource for classroom when studying Earth, Earth’s place in the solar system, and other planets. (ES.4c) The pictures throughout this book would really interest younger children, thus making 11 Planet a great read-aloud. This book would also work really well for research in fifth or sixth grade (6.8) In addition, the interesting tidbits in each planet’s profile include references to Greek/Roman mythology. For example:

“Jupiter was the king of the ancient Roman gods, so his name works for the biggest planet. He was also called Jove, which is why the gas giants are sometimes called Jovian planets. In some languages, Thursday is named for Jupiter.”

Additional Resources

  •  Play the “Missions to Planet Earth” online card game. Help to prepare five important NASA Earth missions. The information from these missions will help scientists understand how to keep Earth in harmony and friendly to all its living things.
  •  Play one of these solar systems games to test your knowledge and learn something new! Since it is impossible to link to only one of these games, this is a whole page of great games! I particularly love Planet Impact! and Comet Facts, Myths, & Legends!

Book: 11 Planets
Author: David Aguilar
Illustrations Specialist: Jean Cantu
Publication: National Geographic
Pages: 47
Grade Range: 4-5
ISBN: 978-1-4263-0236-7

Teaching Civics With Children’s Literature: Feathers and Fools


Feathers and Fools written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Nicholas Wilton is a story about two different flocks of birds living very close to each other.  The peacocks lived in the beautiful garden and the swans live on the clear blue lake.  One day a foolish peacock told the rest of his flock that it was good that peacocks do not swim or fly like the swans, otherwise they would surely drown and look silly flying around.  The other peacocks listened to his words but did not say another.  Then the foolish peacock opened his mouth again and this time said that he feared the swans.  He felt they had great strength and could run the peacocks out of their garden or force them to swim.  The other peacocks became upset and were very worried about their home and happiness.  The peacocks decided to gather up feathers and sharpen them into arrows so that they could defend themselves against the swans.  The swans heard of their plans and become fearfully.  They too started gathering feathers to make arrows to defend themselves.  Both flocks continued to gather feathers but as they added more feathers they become more and more frightened and anxious.  One day a swan was flying over the peacocks garden with a reed in her beak to make a nest for her eggs, the peacocks saw this and mistook the reed for an arrow and the peacocks rushed down to the lake where the swans where.  The swans saw them coming and got ready to defend themselves. The two flocks fought each other and not one survived.  As the sun began to set two eggs hatched and out stumbled a baby peacock and a baby swan.  They walked over to each other and declared they were the same seeing as they has feathers, two legs, two eyes, and a head.  They decided right there to be friends and went off together unafraid.

Curriculum Connections
Feathers and Fools is written for grades K – 3.  However, the book has violent imagery that really isn’t suitable for younger elementary.  It illustrates a great message for an older audience about unsupported prejudices and rash judgments. For younger grades it would be used to show how friendship sees past small differences.  If the story was told without the violent language, it would be suitable to use to teach students about treating others with respect ( VA SOL K.8c, 1.10a) and also about being kind to others (VA SOL K.8a)

Additional Resources

  • This lesson plan focuses on how to be a good citizen.
  • This lesson plan focuses on sharing for lower elementary.
  • This website has several awards and certificates that can be used to promote being a good citizen in the classroom.

Book: Feathers and Fools
Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Nicholas Wilton
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 36 pages
Grade Range: K-3

Teaching Earth Science with Children's Literature: The Magic School Bus Out of This World: A Book About Space Rocks


Introduction and Summary
The Magic School Bus Out of This World : A Book About Space Rocks written by Joanna Cole, is another classic in the Magic School Bus series. Mrs. Frizzle’s class is putting on a solar system play when they find out that an asteroid out in space is headed straight towards Walker Elementary School! The class rushes onto the Magic School Bus that turns into a Space Bus. On their trip to find the asteroid, they discover what shooting stars are and also get pulled into the Moon’s gravity. They defeat a comet and finally find the asteroid. They try many different ways to redirect the asteroid away from Earth until Dorothy Ann finally comes up with a plan. She says the Magic School Bus needs to become as big as the Moon to pull the asteroid into it’s gravity, then shrink at just the right time to send the asteroid far away from the Earth. After the class accomplishes this, they travel back and even get a phone call from NASA on the way home.

Curriculum Connections
This is a great book to introduce older elementary students to space rocks and gravity of the Moon. Key vocabulary could include Earth, Moon, comet, meteor, asteroid, gravity, and shooting stars. The book explores the different space rocks and also introduces how the Moon has it’s own gravity (SOL 6.8a,c). It also explores the distance and makeup of the Moon and how it is associated with the Earth (SOL 4.7c).

Additional Resources

Book: The Magic School Bus Out of This World: A Book About Space Rocks
Joanna Cole
Illustrator: Bruce Degen
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date:
Pages:  32 pages
Grade Range: 2nd-5th grade
ISBN: 0590921568

Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: So That’s How the Moon Changes Shape!


So That’s How the Moon Changes Shape!, by Allan Fowler, gives simple explanations to young readers about the different phases of the moon.  It explains that children may think that the moon changes it’s shape, but helps them to understand that it is sunlight reflecting off of the moon.  There is a moon calender that shows how the moon may look on any given day of the month and a great graphic that shows the moon orbiting around the earth.  Although very simple and basic, this book would be excellent to share with a young class that is learning about the different phases of the moon.  Now children can understand how the moon changes it’s shape!Curriculum Connections
So That’s How the Moon Changes Shape!
is a great teaching tool for introducing the phases of the moon.  It also has great pictures from space that further show the different phases of the moon.  Perfect for a third grade class that is beginning instruction on moon phases (VA SOL 3.8 a)  This book gives simple explanations and could really help students that are having troubling grasping the topic.

Additional Resources

  • Phases of the Moon Handout –  Great fill in the blank worksheet for students to identify and correct name the phases of the moon.
  • Moon Phases Interactive Graphic – Moving graphic that shows the moon orbiting the earth and what the moon looks like during the different phases.
  • Moon Phases Simulation – Allows teacher to control the movement of the moon around the earth.  Each day of the month is available to show the way the moon will look.  Great interactive tool for teacher and students.

Book:  So That’s How the Moon Changes Shape!
  Allan Fowler
Page Design:
  Sara Shelton
  Children’s Press Chicago
Publication Date:
Grade Range:

    Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Our Solar System


    What are the order of the planets? How big is the Earth and how many moons does each planet have? All of these are important questions that students must be able to answer by the time they enter the 6th grade. Seymour Simon takes students through the different planets in Our Solar System. Each page has a detailed instruction of the nine planets that make up our solar system.

    The books opens with a chart of all the planets in order from the sun with basic information that students must know for the SOL’s. Each planet is give a spread with information about its origins and important aspects of the planet. For instance, Mercury is the “second smallest planet in our solar system after pluto”. In addition, the beginning of the book describes the core of our solar system, the sun. The end of the book describes the different particles that orbit within our solor system. The pictures throughout the book are replicated of what we would see if we looked through a telescope.

    Curriculum Connections: This book could be used as a reinforcement in class or as a guide for sixth graders when they are trying to to remember the organization of the solar system especially 6.8a) the sun, moon, Earth, other planets and their moons, meteors, asteroids, and comets , b) the relative size and distance between planets and f) the unique properties of Earth as a planet

    Additional Resources:
    For detailed information on the solor system try Science Monster.

    Another great website that has ideas on different lesson plans to be instituted in the classroom on the solar system: The Solar System

    Solar System Live– This site shows the solar system as it is on a specific date.

    General Information:
    Book: Our Solar System
    Author: Simon Seymour
    Illustrator: N/A
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    Publication Date:September 1992
    Pages: 64
    Grade Range: 6th grade
    ISBN: 978-0688099923


    Teaching Earth Science With Children’s Literature: Extreme Planets!


    Extreme Planets written by Mary Kay Carson and is illustrated through NASA photos and several artists. The format is question and answer and covers a wide variety of questions such as: “How do planets move?”, “How fast is Earth moving? and Why don’t you feel it?” and “Are there earthlike planets beyond our solar system?” The easy to read format and answers to the questions makes it an enjoyable way for students to learn interesting facts about the planets and moons that make up our solar system.

    Extreme Planets also includes an interview with Christine Pulliam, an astronomer with the Smithsonian about how she became a scientist and what her work is like.

    Curriculum Connections
    Extreme Planets is suitable for students in 3rd through 6th grades. It compliments lessons teaching the causes for the Earth’s seasons, motions of the Earth, moon, and sun in revolution and rotation, and the relative size, position, age and makeup of the planets (VA SOL 4.7)

    Additional Resources

    • There are links on several of the pages that offer additional information for students.
    • Glossary provided is a great explanation of some of the more difficult terms
    • A Great resource page offers additional websites and suggested reading to accompany this book and topic
    • 25 hands-on activities
    • Introductory lesson on the planets
    • Interactive solar system. Students can see how the planets rotate around the sun, how fast they move compared to others and facts about each planet.

    Book: Extreme Planets
    Mary Kay Carson
    Illustrator: NASA Photos
    Publisher: Collins
    Publication Date: 2008
    Pages: 48
    Grade Range: 3-6