Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2006

Model solar systems cover classroom

January 5, 2006

In Shelley Brammer's third-grade classroom, every student can be in his or her own universe. That's because a model solar system is hanging above each student's desk.

Before winter break, Brammer assigned students - and their families - to create a model of the solar system to follow up a unit on the planets, the moon and constellations.

And so, on Tuesday, Brammer's students returned from a two-week winter break carrying the weight of the worlds - luckily, it wasn't too heavy for most students, who used Styrofoam balls to represent each planet.

The assignment called for students to create a mobile that would hang from the ceiling and represent the solar system with planets in the correct order from the sun, and the planets were to be roughly the correct size in relation to one another and approximately the correct colors.

Even though every model is of the same solar system, "they're all different. That's what's so amazing," Brammer said.

Brammer said the assignment was a family project because she expected parents to be involved with helping their student research the solar system and secure the materials. She recommended the Internet for finding the most up-to-date information for the project.

"The planets are always changing," she said.

And the students' projects showed evidence of some changes from the past. This year, Brammer said, several students depicted Pluto as pink, whereas in the past it was usually colored purple.

Students chose many different characteristics to have realistic models. Some used nails or pins to portray moons, and another had a piece of clear tape with what looked like sand and dirt to represent the asteroid belt.

"One has a definite crater," Brammer said. "I thought that was good, too, because they definitely have craters."

Assigning the project before winter break has been more successful for Brammer than when she has assigned it at other times, she said. This year, all of her students turned in the projects on time. One student who was on vacation for the break turned hers in early, Brammer said.

All Lansing third-grade classes will complete a similar project, Brammer said.

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