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4th Grade - Stars and the Solar System

Instruction and activities are specific to South Carolina Science Standards. 

Approximately half the time is devoted to activities intended to explain their observations.

  • The Moon's orbit and apparent change of phase

  • Tilt of Earth's axis, the length of day and night and change of seasons

  • Rotation about an axis, Polaris and the apparent motion of the Sun and stars

  • Planetary orbits and retrograde motion

Depending upon your needs, this program can serve as an introduction or culmination to your astronomy unit, or, along with the review booklet, as your students' only instruction for these content standards

4.S.1  Science and Engineering Practices

A.1  Ask questions that can be answered using the scientific method

A.2  Develop, use and refine models

A.3  Plan and conduct scientific investigations to test prediction and formulate explanations

A.6  Construct explanations using scientific evidence and models

A.7  Construct arguments to support explanations or designs using evidence  from observations

A.8  Communicate observations and explanations orally, graphically, and in writing

4.E.3  Stars and the Solar System

A.1  Location and composition of the planets

A.2  Apparent motion of constellations throughout the night and seasons

A.3  Importance of astronomy in navigation and exploration

B.1  Patterns in location, movement and appearance of the moon

B.2  Day and night result from Earth's rotation

B.3  Observe shadows and describe Sun's apparent motion through day and year

B.4  Model Earth's change of seasons using tilt of the axis, Earth's revolution

          around the Sun and angle of sunlight

4.P.4  Light

A.2  Describe how apparent brightness of  light depends on distance and (intrinsic) brightness

A.4  Use observations to describe how light reflects, refracts and is absorbed

One-day Program:

Planetarium, 45-60 minutes per class, 25 students per class

1. Students model the Moon's orbit and observe lunar phases, lunar and solar eclipses   4.S.1.A.2/6/7/8, 4.E.3B.1

2. Students model Earth's rotation and observe sunrise/sunset   4.S.1.A.2/6/7/8, 4.E.3B.2

3. Students model the tilt of Earth's axis and observe the change in the length of day and the path of the Sun through the year 

       4.S.1.A.2/6/7/8,  4.E.3B.3/4

4. Students model Earth's orbit around the Sun and observe the difference between the constellations observable in the Summer

       and Winter skies   4.S.1.A.2/6/7/8, 4.E.3A.2

5. Students locate the positions of the planets based on which planets can be seen at sunset, midnight and sunrise at the time of the

       programs and on the constellations in which each planet appears   4.S.1.A.2/6/7/8, 4.E.3A.1

Three-day Program:

Planetarium 2-days, Classroom 1-day, 45-60 minutes per class, 25 students per class

Added content to One-day program:

Planetarium, Day One - Earth, Moon & Sun

Students relate the phases of the moon visible in the evening and morning to the Moon's orbit

Students predict the time of moonrise for each lunar phase

Students use scale models of the Earth/Moon/Sun and observe the alignment that causes a total solar eclipse.

        Mathematics and visual arts integration

Classroom, Day Two - Classroom model of the Solar System

Students create a model of the solar system on their classroom ceiling including location of the seasons, constellations of the

          Zodiac, months and current location of the planets. Inner planets can be moved throughout the rest of the year to reinforce

          the concepts and predict which planets will be visible at sunset, midnight and sunrise

Planetarium, Day Three - Constellations and Mythologies

Students model Earth's rotation to understand the apparent circumpolar motion of the sky.

Students identify constellations of the Zodiac that can be seen in summer and winter

      Students learn myths associated with Greek/Roman and Native American constellations

Five-day Program:

Planetarium 3-days, classroom 2-days, 45-60 minutes per class, 25 students per class

Added content to Three-day program:

Planetarium, Day One - Earth, Moon & Sun

Students model tides and are shown how tidal interaction transfers angular momentum between Earth and Moon. This explains why the Moon has the same apparent diameter as the Sun, resulting in the visible corona during total solar eclipses


Classroom, Day Two - Moon phases and eclipses

Pizza box model of moon phases, Moon phase worksheet

Planetarium, Day Three - Seasons, constellations, finding the planets in our sky and in our solar system

Classroom, Day Four - Solar system in your neighborhood

Students use the scale model of the Earth/Moon/Sun to create a scale model of the solar system centered on their school. Orbits of

      the outer planets intersect familiar locations in their neighborhood while planets are 1 – 3 inches in diameter.

      Mathematics and visual arts integration


Planetarium, Day Five - Constellations, Mythologies, the Solar System and the Stars

Students explore, compare and contrast mythologies from Greek/Roman cultures, Native Americans, and other cultures. English     

      Language Arts and Social Studies integration

Life-cycle of stars, astronomical distances, deep-sky objects, student questions

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