Since we’re studying astronomy this year I knew I wanted a good solar system model for the kids to be able to look at. So, I drove down to our local Mardel’s and sat there studying the 10 different models they had.
And to make sure I had a really good comparison I then walked down the street to the Hobby Lobby and compared the ones on their “educational models” aisle. And I found our “perfect” solar system model: Geosafari Motorized Solar System (affiliate link).
What I wanted in a solar system model
- Sturdy, very sturdy. I’ve bought a couple of models recently that did not hold up to my kids rough handling, and since we’ll be referring back to it all year long, it needs to be sturdy.
- Somewhat to scale. Nothing in the price range I’m willing to pay will be anything close to scale, but I want them to understand there is a huge size differential between Pluto and Jupiter.
- Not Styrofoam.
- Nice to have: motorized so they can see the planets move
- Nice to have: light up
- Nice to have: easily removable so they can look at the planets in more detail
(In case you’re wondering my best friends and I came up with a 10 page long list of what we’re looking for in a guy, everything from MUST have, to it’d be nice but it’s not a deal breaker, so I have a long habit of making lists like this, and much longer)
I sat in Mardel’s for a good 30 minutes staring at all of the models, I got the salesperson to let me take them out of the boxes to examine them more closely, and finally decided on the Geosafari Motorized Solar System (affiliate link).
Putting together our solar system model
That random pile of stuff is all you need for the model. The kids looked bored out of their minds because I wouldn’t let them touch the model until I’d laid all the pieces out. Poor Superman was not happy, he wanted to just start pulling pieces out willy nilly.
But once we started putting planets in they were happy as clams and went took turns putting all 9 planets in. That’s right, I’m still going to call Pluto a planet even if the national association of astronomers says otherwise.
There was some deal-making between the kids because they decided they liked different planets more than others, but in the end we had the planets all put together.
Now comes the fun part of the solar system model: playing (learning) from it
As we put it together and looked at all of the cool pieces we learned a few things.
- The planets are widely different in size. Little bitty Pluto is smaller than a marble.
- Jupiter is rather cool with its’ giant red spot.
- The rings of Saturn led to much discussion of what they could be made of.
- We were all fascinated to see how the planets moved around, and how they were placed on different dates.
- It takes planets wildly different amounts of time to go around the sun (and this is with the sizing being off significantly).
Then we looked at the planetary features chart. That was fascinating (I may have watched too much TOS Star Trek growing up). I was intrigued by the symbols, and my kids were amazed at how long the different years are, and the length of days on different planets.
Eventually I just let them have fun looking at and playing with our new solar system model, and they had at it.
Batman in particular spent a great deal of time looking at it. He’s the reason we’re studying astronomy this year because he wanted to learn all about space. He spent a lot of time looking at how the planets are not in a row and how they rotate at different angles. I can’t wait for his mind to be blown to realize they don’t even all rotate in a single plane, Neptune is actually on a completely different axis.
Once I’ve put it back together again I’ll let you know about our other astronomy model, that one has not been as big of a hit, and is part of why I was so picky on our solar system model.
Want more solar system information?
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Phyllis at All Things Beautiful says
I looks like a really good one. How much did it cost?
It’s on Amazon for $26. I think I got mine for around $30 at Mardel.
Almost Unschoolers says
“You heard about Pluto? That’s messed up, right?” 🙂
Ha ha ha ha.
Lindsay @ BytesofMemory says
What fun!! I love that you made building it part of the lesson. I would have totally put it together when Sammy was in bed.. bad mommy!
Oh gosh, yeah putting it together has so many hidden lessons in it 🙂
maryanne @ mama smiles says
This model looks awesome! We had something that looked like it, but was smaller (and not as sturdy as you describe).
maryanne @ mama smiles says
And now I really want to see your “what to look for in a guy” post!
That will NEVER make it into a post, but I might send you an email.
Natalie PlanetSmartyPants says
MaryAnne’s comment cracked me up. I can only imagine Princess composing that list a few years down the road 🙂 This is a super model. My third grader will be studying astronomy too this year in school, and I am looking forward to repeating some hands on stuff we did years back, since she clearly forgot all about it.
It’s amazing what they forget, even when you think they’ve got it down cold.
We’ve got that exact model I think and the children just love it! Would my ebola post be okay to link up or too much??
Your ebola post is a GREAT example of a science post, just because I personally am squeamish on the subject doesn’t make it any less great of a post.
I love that first pic of the kids. Absolutely priceless! Glad to see they look a lot livelier once they got to play with the model.
I know, I hadn’t realized at the time I was taking it just how bored they looked.
Linked it up! Thanks for hosting!
I love the way you incorporated this into your lesson. It looks fantastic. I know a whole bunch of kids that are going to love doing this. Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome, thank you for commenting. I’m really looking forward to using this in our science all year long!