Pie Plate Model of Earth’s Orbit

**Updated! 10/18/2016**

I have been meaning to to do a space themed lesson for a long time but was struggling to get some science activities (not just crafts) for the youngest set to do.  I finally “landed” on this one and it was fantastic fun and so easy to do!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Foil pie plates (must be round)
  • Black construction paper
  • Orange construction paper
  • Star stickers
  • Blue Marble (or blue-green, to represent Earth)
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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Since the tots in my class are pretty young, I measured out the bottom of the pie plates and cut out black circles for them.  I also cut out the orange circles to represent the sun.  For preschoolers and kindergarteners, I would definitely trace the circles for them but have them cut them out on their own.  For older kids, they can trace and cut on their own.

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Glue the large black circle to the inside of the plate.  This represents space.

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Next, glue the orange circle to the center of the plate.  This represents the sun.

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Place some stickers all over the black paper to represent the starts in the sky. As was noted by a fellow science teacher, there are no stars in our solar system except for the Sun.  To make this activity scientifically accurate, you might just want to skip the star stickers.

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Lastly, add the blue marble and spin the plate so that the marble spins around the edge of the plate, representing how the Earth spins around the sun.

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That’s it!  It’s a craft, but there’s plenty of learning (and fun) while spinning the plate.

The Science behind the Activity:

There are plenty of models of the solar system but I love how this is so simple for young kids to understand that the Earth is moving around the sun and not the other way around.  This same project could be done with the Earth in the center and a white marble to symbolize the moon spinning around the Earth.

To see where I got this simple but fantastic idea from, please visit: http://www.pinkstripeysocks.com/2015/05/preschool-science-solar-system-activity.html

*My only note on the original author’s post is that scientifically it’s not accurate to place 8 marbles in the pie dish to represent all 8 planets orbiting the sun.  The sizes of the orbits are very different and the planets would be showing that they are crashing into each other.  But her idea is great for showing one orbit at a time.*

**Updated: Skip the star stickers if you want to be scientifically accurate.  There are no stars in our solar system.  The only star in our solar system is our sun.**

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