Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sizing Up Our Universe

In this Lesson Plan for 5th Graders, students will compare and order planets by size, age, and distance from Earth.


  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP and GameUp
  • A set of printable Sizing Up the Universe game materials for each student or group


In Sizing Up the Universe, students play an online interactive that brings the universe down to size. It will help students understand the vastness of size and distance between the constellations, planets, and galaxies in our universe.

You also view the curriculum resources from Smithsonian Education to learn more about the topic and interactive. You may also want to show a video about the size of the universe. "Cosmos" is a great series to use for this purpose.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Play the Galaxies and/or the Solar System video for the class.
  2. Pass out 7 of the printable Sizing Up the Universe game materials to students. Have students work independently or in groups to arrange the cards in order from nearest to the Earth to the farthest.
  3. Challenge students to justify the order they chose to a partner or group member.
  4. After the discussion, have students use the recording sheet to write down their thoughts.
  5. Have students repeat the activity, this time ordering the cards from closest to the Earth to farthest, and then from youngest to oldest.
  6. Introduce students to the Sizing Up the Universe interactive. Provide time for students to explore the interactive in pairs.
  7. Allow students to rethink the information they wrote on their recording sheets. Encourage them to record their second ideas, justifying the order they chose and relating their decisions back to what they learned during game play.
  8. You may want to assess student learning via the game quiz. You can also have students reflect about how studying the scale of the universe made them feel. Some people say they feel insignificant after understanding the scale of the universe, while others say it makes them feel that life on Earth is special. Challenge students to articulate their view. 

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