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.