Solar System Webquest, A Model of the Planets Around the Sun
“The Planets” is a solar system webquest for a high school science classroom. It was published by Jessica Lumunsod.
In this science webquest, students are asked to research the planets in the solar system. After documenting their characteristics, students need to use their findings to create an accurate, representative model of the solar system.
I like this task. It’s not overly complicated, but it still involves some depth of thought. The initial part, researching the planets, recording the data, and creating the chart is fairly straightforward. Using this data to accurately model what the solar system looks like, however, is not so straightforward.
It’s easy to throw up some balls of foam; it’s a little more complex to get the proportions of sizes and distances correct.
My Usual Complaints and Recommendations
Despite the admirable task, there are a few shortcomings to this solar system webquest.
First, the process doesn’t include any links to the help students find their research. While the data they need is simple and factual (and can probably be found in Wikipedia, which contrary to some claims is a good source of information), it’s still good form in a webquest to include some direct links to resources.
Second, and building on the first, it would be helpful if students were presented with example models to see what the solar system looked like. Perhaps you could leave the students to find the factual data themselves. Then, you could point them to several models of the planets on the web. This would give them a better visual understanding of the relative distances and sizes involved.
Finally, I would revise the assessment rubric to specifically refer to an accurate representation of the solar system. For example, the relative sizes of the planets should be more or less correct. Their orbits should be the right circumference. I wouldn’t pull out a ruler and measure it to the millimeter, but this would be a good time to have students demonstrate an understanding of scale. This would help ensure that the project is scientifically and mathematically valuable instead of just being an art project.
Your Thoughts On This Solar System Webquest?
Check out the original science webquest on Zunal, and then let me know what you think in the comments below. Would these modifications make this good enough, or are there better solar system webquests out there?