Solar System Game Lesson Plan: Build and Learn

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this solar system lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to define a celestial body and explain how objects orbit and rotate. Students then use online gaming tools to create a replica of our solar system.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explain how objects orbit and rotate
  2. Define a celestial body
  3. Use online gaming tools to create a replica of our solar system

Materials:

  • Projector or interactive whiteboard
  • Computers for students to use in playing the game
  • Class set of copies of the Note Taking Graphic Organizer
  • Internet access for BrainPOP

Vocabulary:

sun; terrestrial planets; gas giants; asteroids; asteroid belt; dwarf planets; comets; kuiper belt; oort cloud

Preparation:

Explore the BrainPOP Build a Solar System Game and preview the movie topic page. Make copies of the graphic organizer. The Build a Solar System game allows students to experiment with the behaviors of various solar systems. The program models the gravitational attraction of stars and planets, and students drag the planets into a rotation. The solar system students build will continue running after they log off, so they can check back later and see if it's still going. You may also want to check out more resources by the developer of this game, which can be found on the SciGames and Space Science Institute websites.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Tell the class that today they will use a BrainPOP movie and game to learn about the orbit and rotation of planets in our solar system. Show the Note Taking Graphic Organizer to students. Explain that you will play the movie twice. The first time, they should watch and listen. During the second viewing, you will distribute the graphic organizer and allow them to take notes.
  2. After playing the movie through the second time, give students several minutes to work in pairs or groups to compare notes and ensure accuracy.
  3. Project the Build a Solar System Game for students to see. Facilitate a short discussion about how the planets rotate and orbit. Model game play as needed for students.
  4. Allow students to play the game in pairs for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Bring the class back to a whole class discussion. What strategies have been useful in making sure the solar system operates correctly? What happens if a planet is placed in an incorrect rotation or orbit? How does the game relate to our actual solar system?
  6. Give students additional time to play the game on their own. You may wish to use the game as an assessment tool and note which students need assistance to create a replica of our solar system. Or, have students create a 3D model of the solar system using concrete materials.
  7. Since the solar system keeps running after game play, have students check back the following day to see if the system they created is still going, and make corrections as needed.
  8. As a warm up, project the Activity for students and challenge them to complete it in their notebooks, either individually or with a partner.

Extension Activity:

As students continue to learn about the solar system, introduce them to the Chronopticon game. The Elapsed Time and Constellations with Chronopticon Lesson Plan provides ideas for integrating the game into your curriculum.