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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Layers of the Earth

I wanted to show my superheroes what our Earth looked like from the inside.  They’ve seen plenty of images of the outside with the oceans and the continents.  I found this great model Earth activity to do with them that would show them all the layers underneath the Earth’s surface.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Playdoh in the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown
  • Dental Floss

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I couldn’t find a single pack of brown playdoh anywhere so I made my own batch using a recipe given to me by son’s preschool teacher many moons ago.

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I made a large batch of playdoh and used brown liquid watercolor to get the color I wanted.  So mine is definitely not meant for the mouth.  I must admit, the homemade playdoh is so much softer and easier to play and mold with.  But I digress…

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We first took the red playdoh and made a very small ball with it.  (We should have made ours smaller).  The red ball represents the Earth’s inner core, a solid mass of iron.

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We next took the orange playdoh and flattened it out a bit and then wrapped the red ball inside.  We rolled it around to smooth out the bumps.  The orange layer represents the outer core, a liquid mass of iron and nickel.

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We repeated the previous step with yellow playdoh to form the Earth’s mantle and then added the brown on top of that to represent the Earth’s crust.  The mantle is thick solid rocky substance.  The crust is the thinnest part of the Earth made up primarily of rock.

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The boys ended up using a roller to flatten out the larger layers and it was much easier.

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On top of the crust, we added bits of blue and green to form the oceans and the continents.  The crust is covered up by the oceans and only the tips of the crust protrude above the oceans as continents and landmasses.

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My middle son wanted to hold the “world” in his hands!

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Finally, our Earth was complete.  But we need to see our layers, right?  So, we used a piece of dental floss to cut through the Earth.

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Why floss?  Because floss will cut through smoothly without smooshing your Earth into a lopsided blob the way a knife will.

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We got a nice clean cut and were able to see all of the layers of the Earth distinctly.

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The superheroes loved it!  And then they were ready to just play with the playdoh.  The good thing is that I was easily able to put the Earth back together to show my Tiny Tots in class the following day.

If I were to do this again, I would make the mantle layer (yellow) thicker and the inner core (red) a bit smaller.

Here’s where I got my idea from: http://www.meetthedubiens.com/2011/04/playdoh-planet-earth-and-some-babbling.html

Paper Plate Earth

In honor of Earth Day, the superheroes and I decided to do a craft, instead of an experiment.  This is a super EASY craft that takes only a few minutes to set up and complete and it looks awesome!  I’m sure you have these supplies laying around the house.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • White plate (or a large white cardboard/cardstock circle)
  • blue and green tissue paper cut into squares (leftover from all those gifts your kids receive!)
  • Glue and scissors

Cover the entire plate (circle) with glue.  We just spread ours around but you could also use a paintbrush.

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Using the green and blue tissue paper squares (we ended up using leftover streamers cut into squares) let your little ones create their version of the world map.  We looked at pictures of the Earth first and discussed what the green and blue represent.

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Let it dry.  That’s it!  You can hole punch it and hang it near a window.  Simple.  Easy.

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Here’s where I got my idea from: http://happyhooligans.ca/earth-day-crafts-for-kids/