Teachers can help!

People have a lot of misconceptions about distance. When we say people have walked on the moon and sent robots to Venus, Mars, even Titan, a moon of Saturn, students don’t get excited as they should, because they have no idea how hard it is.

Teacher, you’re the most important part of making this model. Your responsibilities are to get admins and students excited, and guide students through the practical parts of putting down the model, and help this and future students gain the astronomic perspective of large distances.

Your short to-do list

For design, it is probably best to make it a homework assignment. Showing understanding is gradable. In addition, let some august person judge the winning design, for clarity, beauty, and accuracy.

Ideas you’re instilling and/or installing:

Each planet will have a standard introduction and logo of the project, which you’ll be given. The design of the rest of the tile is up to you, and depending on support and funds, we’ll learn what kinds of displays we can make. After the intro tile, how the rest looks is up to you and your students. Your only constraints are that the planet must be in its orbital path, must last at least 10 years, and must be to scale with the 18m-diameter Sun. You should consider presenting your planet’s moons, at the right size and distance of course.

You won’t have to fit a whole lesson’s-worth of data in a display. The goal is to pique interest in astronomic scales and provide perspectives beyond the mundane. Aim for clarity and beauty over density of information.

Encourage students to add their own flourish, but to be subtle. A curl of dust in the atmosphere of Jupiter might hold the initials of the kids involved or the mascot of the school. Welcome that, but discourage blatant personalization.

In designing your display, have real concern over confusing model numbers versus actual numbers. If you wish to talk about how fast the planet is orbiting, it is probably better to write down actual numbers but use similes about model-space. “Mars travels in this ← direction at 24km/sec, around the model at half the speed of a crawling snail with a year almost twice as long as ours”, instead of “at 2m/h”.

First step is to claim the planet and location you wish to “own”. See the map of proposed sites, and see the orbital paths of the planets, and also see a table of data about planets and orbits.