Age: 7, 10

Science Co-op Session 1 Week 6: Solar System


  • Book on Neil Armstrong
  • Toilet paper Solar system
  • Draw your own solar system

This is week 6 of our first co-op session.  I’m reaching a point where I procrastinate prepping night after night until the night before class.   Next week Eclectic Mama will do a rocket ship presentation.  Everyone is thankful that we’re doing a 6/7 week on 1 week off schooling routine.

I’m kicking myself that I did not do this type of schedule earlier.  It gives us so much more breathing room.

This week the focus is on the planets.   Given our limited time I thought the best thing to do is to get the kids to at least memorize all the planet names in both English and Chinese.  If they want to follow up, they can do that at home.

Neil Armstrong 阿姆斯壯

I brought along 3 books for the kids to choose from.  They wanted to learn about Armstrong 阿姆斯壯.  Well, some of them knew of him already but it was good to review the Chinese words for space ships and what not.

Toilet paper Solar system 

Next, I brought out the Solar System Planet Magnets  I bought from Amazon a whole year ago.  We went through all the planets together and tried to figure out the names of every planet ourselves.  We had the help of a handy dandy Solar System poster that I got from the book 宇宙的祕密立體遊戲書.  That really was the best purchase ever.

We had some trouble with Neptune and Uranus because these two planets look different between the poster and the magnet.  We think the light blue color one is Uranus and the one dark blue with ocean swirls one is Neptune.

Our reference poster

But I’m very glad I had the kids try to figure out the names (it took them 30 minutes) instead of just giving them the answer.  Something I learned from watching our Chinese tutor teach, that time spent working on something is a way for kids to learn, not wasted time.  I mean, so obvious; but it’s hard for me to get past the worksheet mindset of “let’s finish ASAP and cross this off our list!”

Once they figured out the planet names, everyone had to write the labels in both Chinese and English on pieces of paper.

We then discussed what we were going to do that day, namely showing the distance of the planets from the sun with the help of some toilet paper.  Because, look at the poster, most renditions of the solar system show the planets equal distance from each other.

The kids had tons of fun with this activity.  They didn’t want to count 200 sheets of toilet paper.  So we talked about other ways we could count to 200.  With 4 kids, each child had their own 3 planets they were responsible for and they looked at the worksheet and counted their planet’s distance from the sun after we laid out the toilet paper roll.


One thing to keep in mind, you may want to do this on a non-windy day!

At the end, we pretended we were on a Magic School bus and toured the Solar System again by walking from the Sun to Pluto.   We talked about how Venus and Mercury are very hot planets because it’s closest to the sun.  That Venus is actually hotter than closer Mercury because its atmosphere traps the gas.

This was a really great sensorial experience for the children, to see that the first 4 planets are very close to the Sun.  There are so many things you can discuss with the children and they can learn about astronomy.  I have to say, my kids have learned more from their periodic visits to the space science museum than whatever activities we have done in class.   But it’s okay, they had fun and find science itself exciting.

Solar System Poster

Making posters and labeling is a very classic Montessori activity.   Today, during Study Hall, I whipped out my poster roll from Ikea and had the kids lay out the magnetic planets again in order.  Each kid traced the planets and colored them in with color pencils.  I would have added some art element by having them paint in watercolor, but we were on carpet and I was a bit too lazy.

When they’re done they will also label them in English and Chinese.

My poster will remain at my house and this poster will stay with Bebe and Omi.  If we had time maybe we could have made 4 posters….

What I Learned

So after 6 weeks I think I’ve learned a few things about format of a 1.5 hour class that will work for me.

1)  Start with a picture book, end with a picture book, don’t be ambitious.

Starting with circle time helps bring the kids in.  Ending with reading another picture book helps give the children more info that we cannot cover in a quick overview 6 week class that’s only 1.5 hours long each time.

In the beginning, I was a bit ambitious and provided a lot of options and designed activities.  Like food, I was afraid we’d run out of things to do.  But I needn’t.  The kids usually lose focus by 11:30 or so because they’re hungry.

2) Start class exactly at 10:30 or earlier or provide snack time.

Which leads to the second point that we need to start on time.  It’s not fun for me when kids start running away because they can’t pay attention anymore.

Eventually I also learned to add in a snack time when I see them getting antsy.  Often in a class some kids finish their items earlier than others.  Next session, I will need to work on teaching the kids more class routines and rules like you can go get snack when you’re hungry but don’t leave the table.  Because when one child leaves others start leaving and it takes more time to call them back.

Once you have a class and you’re not the greatest at classroom management, everything takes longer.  Eventually, when they have the routine down though, I think we can work toward more of a Montessori classroom with more freedom of movement.

3) It’s okay we don’t cover everything

I had a brain fart yesterday that we can do a cycle of all 5 Great Lessons and every time learn something else.  There are endless topics to cover in each great lesson.  So I don’t need to feel bad that I didn’t teach the kids enough.

In general, I’m really happy about doing a co-op again.  It really is the only way I’m able to get some science and history into our week, by intentionally setting time aside that I’m committed to because other people are involved.



These are the vocabs the kids learned about the Solar System the last two weeks

  • Sun – 太陽
  • Mercury - 水星
  • Venus - 金星
  • Earth - 地球
  • Moon - 月球  (more scientific name)
  • Mars – 火星
  • Ceres - 穀神星
  • Kuiper Belt  – 柯伊伯帶
  • Jupiter - 木星
  • Saturn - 土星
  • Uranus - 天王星
  • Neptune - 海王星
  • Pluto - 冥王星
  • Dwarf Planet - 矮行星
  • Solar System - 太陽系


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