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Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Activity: Plateful of Planets

Plateful_planets_sun.jpg (15578 bytes) Plateful_planets.jpg (13300 bytes)
Plates courtesy of April Whitt.

Color the entire bottom side of the plate to represent the sun and label it so.  Decorate the fluted edges of the plate to resemble solar flares (“flames”).

On the top side, write the names of the planets. You can write them in order from the sun, if you want the students to practice that skill, or you can write the names scattered around, the way the real planets are in different places around the sun.  Next to each planet’s name, glue the seed that represents its size:

Mercury – sesame seed              Mars – barley seed                   Uranus – dried garbanzo bean

Venus – small dried pea              Jupiter – walnut                       Neptune – dried garbanzo bean

Earth – large dried pea            Saturn – filbert (hazelnut)            Pluto - radish seed

Contributed by April Whitt.

GLPA Proceedings,  1999, p. 36.

Paper Plate Ed says...

Multiple websites that offer scale models of the solar system are listed at http://www.vendian.org/mncharity/dir3/solarsystem.   One website that allows you to establish your own reference size for a scale model of the Solar System can be found at http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/.

For example, if the earth were a paper plate (about 9 inches, or 228 mm) the rest of the system would be scaled as shown on the sample table below.  The diameter of the sun would be equivalent to 983 inches, or about 109 paper plates placed end to end.  A standard-sized package of paper plates contains 100 pieces.  From that large sun, the plate-sized earth would be in orbit over 8,802 feet away.   Some values on the table below have been rounded off for simplicity.

Body Actual Body
Scaled Body
Scaled Body
Actual Orbit
Scaled Orbit
(ft )
Sun 1391900 983 25000      
Mercury 4866 3.4 87 57950000 3410 1040
Venus 12106 8.5 217 108110000 6360 1940
Earth 12742 9 230 149570000 8800 2680
Mars 6760 5 120 227840000 13410 4090
Jupiter 139516 98 2500 778140000 4580 13960
Saturn 116438 82 2088 1427000000 84000 25600
Uranus 46940 33 842 2870300000 168900 51490
Neptune 45432 32 815 4499900000 264830 80720
Pluto 2274 1.6 41 5913000000 348000 106070

[Note: The table above is adapted from Ron Hipschman's page with permission.  To alter input values on the table and recalculate the distances, connect directly to http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/.]


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Copyright 2012 Chuck Bueter.  All rights reserved.