Exploring the Solar System Project-Based Learning Unit

Exploring the Solar System
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A Comprehensive Lesson on the Solar System

Research the planets, build a model solar system, and create a "planet museum" exhibit with this cross-curricular PBL unit.

Your students will "meet the planets" in this complete cross-curricular project-based learning unit on the solar system for 4th to 6th grade science. They'll build background knowledge through a virtual outer space tour and a "scavenger hunt" research project, build a scale model of the solar system as a group, and create and display a "planet museum" exhibit that enables them to synthesize and showcase their knowledge of the solar system.

What's Inside

Packed with hands-on inquiry-based activities, extensions and enhancements, cross-curricular independent and group work, and engaging and interactive challenges, this 70-page project-based unit comes complete with:

  • For the Teacher: A complete solar system Lesson Plan with step-by-step instructions for all activities, teaching tips, assessment guidance, and inquiry questions.
  • For Students: A full-color Student Pack complete with all of the printables and instructions students need for the solar system activities - just print (or share) and teach!

A complete, ready-to-teach Teacher Pack that includes:

  1. Teacher versions of all the student printables with step-by-step annotations and notes for teaching the solar system;
  2. Formative and summative assessments, answer keys, and a full project rubric;
  3. Instructions and guidance for the extension activities and project enhancements;
  4. Materials and resources lists, and additional resources for lecture and presentation.

What's Included

Lesson Plan - Step-by-Step Project Guide

  • Milestone 1: Building Background Knowledge of the Solar System
  • Milestone 2: Planet Design
  • Milestone 3: Building a Model Solar System
  • Milestone 4: Synthesizing Acquired Knowledge of the Solar System
  • Milestone 5: Show What You Know About the Solar System

Teacher and Student Resources

  • List of Books About the Solar System
  • Solar System Map
  • Outer Space Virtual Tour Answer Key
  • Meet the Planets Background Information
  • Planet Cards
  • Creating a Solar System Model Answer Key
  • Meet the Planets Quick Quiz
  • Meet the Planets Quick Quiz Answer Key
  • Slideshow Mini-Lesson
  • Meet the Planets Summative Assessment
  • Meet the Planets Summative Assessment Answer Key
  • Meet the Planets Project and Presentation Rubric
  • Outer Space Virtual Tour
  • Solar System Brainstorm
  • How to Do Good Research
  • Planet Facts Scavenger Hunt
  • Fast Facts: The Solar System
  • Milestone #1 Inquiry Question
  • Planet Trading Cards
  • Creating a Solar System Model
  • Designing a Planet
  • Milestone #2 Inquiry Question
  • Asteroids, Comets, and Meteors
  • Steps for Making a Solar System Model
  • Solar System Observations
  • Milestone #3 Inquiry Question
  • 3, 2, 1 Blastoff!
  • Planning a Museum Exhibit
  • Planet Slideshow Requirements
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lesson plan for exploring the solar system project-based learning lesson
Teacher Pack - Exploring the Solar System Project-Based Learning Lesson
Student Pack - Exploring the Solar System Project-Based Learning Lesson


This project-based learning lesson is designed to support and reinforce the concepts taught as part of a lesson on Earth and the Solar System. It is built around 5 inquiry-based milestones that incorporate cross-curricular hands-on projects, formative and summative assessments, independent and group activities, and extensions.


In the course of this project-based learning unit, students will:

  • Perform independent and group inquiry-based research on the planets and the solar system;
  • Use their research to design and build a planet model;
  • Convert astronomical units to scale, and build a scale model of the solar system in school that includes their planet models;
  • Make predictions about orbital characteristics of planets, and carry out experiments to verify those predictions;
  • Synthesize acquired research and empirical knowledge into a "planet museum" exhibit, and develop digital and written resources to accompany each.
  • "Show what they know" by delivering a class presentation/tour of their "planet museum" exhibit.


Students will acquire necessary background knowledge of the solar system as part of this project, and instructional materials for providing that background are included in the Teacher Pack (PowerPoint presentation and Teaching Notes).


This project-based unit is divided into 5 milestones. The minimum suggested duration for completing this project-based unit is 5 class periods. However, the unit is completely flexible can be lengthened or shortened as necessary or desired, based on available class time and interest level.


  • Internet access
  • Microsoft Office PowerPoint, Google Slides, or other presentation software.


These activities support the following NGSS curriculum standards:

  • ESS1.A: The Universe and Stars
  • ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
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