Can you draw the solar system to scale?

Look at the image. It’s something that we’re all familiar with, an image of our solar system. Do you think it is accurate? Actually, it is not. In fact, most of us do not even have a good idea of the relative distances in the solar system. For example, contrary to our imagination that Neptune is just a bit beyond Jupiter, the distance between Neptune and Jupiter is actually 5 times more than the distance between Earth and Jupiter.

Have you ever seen a picture of the solar system accurately drawn to scale?

The simple answer: No way!

Why is that so? To create a scale model of the solar system, we need to be able to show the planets AND the distances between them. The distances in the solar system are huge and the size of even the largest planet is miniscule compared to the distances between the planets.

Bill Bryson in his book “A short history of nearly everything” helps give an idea of how big the solar system really is.

‘On a diagram of the solar system to scale, with Earth reduced to about the diameter of a pea, Jupiter would be over a thousand feet away and Pluto would be a mile and a half distant (and about the size of a bacterium, so you wouldn’t be able to see it anyway). On the same scale, Proxima Centauri, our nearest star, would be almost ten thousand miles away. Even if you shrank down everything so that Jupiter was as small as the period at the end of this sentence, and Pluto was no bigger than a molecule, Pluto would still be over thirty-five feet away.’

Interesting, isn’t it? Know someone who might find this interesting? Share it with them.


A Game of “Spot Where You Are”: Teach your little explorer how to make maps and read them

This article is a part of our “Fun Learning Activities” series, in which we present some awesome activity ideas you can use to keep your children engaged, while teaching them relevant skills. If you like this activity, please share with your friends.

In a nutshell:You and your little explorer will explore the house, mapping different items on a hand drawn ‘map’. Your explorer will learn to make maps and give directions using them. Once the ‘map’ is ready, you will also play a game of “Spot Where You Are”, which involves identifying a place in the house on the map.

Why it is important:Reading maps and giving directions is an important life skill. Our research shows that many children are slow to pick up these skills.

Age level:Suitable for 6-10 year olds (Grades 2-5)

Start from the front door

Take a piece of paper (A4 size will do) and start from the front door. You can really start from anywhere but we suggest the front door because that is the angle from which we normally see the house.

Mark your front door on the ‘map’ and tell your little explorer what you are doing. Remember to mark the front door at an appropriate place keeping space for the rest of the house on the left and right. You can also draw two stick figures to show your explorer and yourself.

Draw the outline of the first room

Draw the outline of the room you enter into, coming into the house from the front door. Talk your explorer through what you are doing – you could also walk along the walls as you draw them. Remember to include all the other entrances, exits and widows in your outline. Point out each of the items to your explorer and make sure she understands the correspondence between what she sees in the room and on the map.

Draw the objects in the room – introduce use of symbols

Come back to the front door and start filling the map by drawing different objects in the room. Let your explorer spot the items she wants to include, while you draw them. While drawing the objects, instead of drawing the object as it is, draw a symbol. It could simply be a circle with a cross in it to indicate a chair, or a small rectangle with a plus in it to show a table or a clown face to show a sibling sitting in the room – just let your explorer’s imagination flow!

You can include some funny and interesting things as you map the room. For example, you could include stick figures of other people as they do different things in various parts of the house or your explorer’s favourite toys and food items.

When you include a symbol for an object, put the symbol in one corner of the map and write down what that symbol means. After this, when you come across another similar object, you could ask your explorer to draw the symbol.

While you are in the first room, just go on asking your explorer to name the items. You choose where you are going to draw it on the map but talk her through it. For example, “yeah, we need to draw the chair. Let me see, it is next to the table, so, let’s draw it here”.

Map the other rooms – let your explorer place the objects

By the time you go to the next room, your explorer would be familiar with the way you are choosing the location of items on the map. Draw the outline of this room as before. Then, show her an item next to the entrance and ask her where she will draw it on the map. Help her relate the placement of the object to the entrance and to the last item you would have drawn. Go along any one wall and let her place objects on the map.

You can engage your explorer in the activity better if you ask questions – For example, as you are mapping a new room, show her an empty space in an unfilled corner of the map and ask her what she will draw there. Or ask her to locate a door on the map.

Walk around the room and finish mapping it. You can go ahead and map more rooms.

Play the game of “Spot Where You Are”

Complete mapping as many rooms as you want. It may be a good idea to stop with one floor, even if your house is on multiple floors, especially if you are working with a young child.

If you are working with an older child, you can choose two places in the house and ask her to give you directions to go from one place to the other. You could also give her directions and have her go from one place to the other.

Once you are done mapping the house, you are ready to play the game. Ask your explorer to close her eyes. Lead her by the hand to any part of the house, reminding her to keep her eyes closed (of course she will try to peek – just pretend like you are covering her eyes, closing eyes is not the point anyway!). Ask her to open eyes and spot where she is on the map. Help her trace the path from where you started to where she is. Then, it is your turn to close eyes and be led to a place in the house.

Your little explorer has just learnt how to draw and read maps!

Not to mention the great fun you have had. Obviously, there is more to maps than this but this a good starting point to make children understand how maps relate to physical environment.

If you’ve enjoyed this activity, you can share it with others using the links below.

If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about what kind of activities you would like to see in the future, be sure to tell us in the comments below