Building the Solar System in Art Class
Paint the Sun
Because the sun is so much larger than the planets, it is best to have the sun on a wall and hang the planets from the ceiling. Take a large piece of butcher paper, or pieces taped together, and spread out on the floor. Give students mostly yellow paint and let them cover the butcher paper. Before the yellow paint is dry, mix in a few swirls of red and orange. Use brown to include sun spots.
Alternatively, if you have the option, paint the sun on the wall, complete with wavy rays of light.
Size the Planets
The following list is the planet in order of their size by smallest to largest kilometers in diameter. The sizes of the paper mache planets must be relative to each other.
Blow up round balloons to be the planets, the smallest balloon is Pluto and the largest balloon is Jupiter. You may also choose to use styrofoam balls or any other round or roundish object as the base for paper mache.
- Pluto 2,274 km in diameter (notice that Pluto is smaller than our moon!)
- Mercury diameter 4,880
- Mars 6,794
- Venus 12,103.6
- Earth 12,756.3 and our moon 3,476
- Neptune 49,532 (Notice that Neptune is just a little smaller than its twin, Uranus)
- Uranus 51,118
- Saturn 120,536 (Saturn has rings, we will include those later)
- Jupiter 142,984.
The easiest paper mache is made with newspaper strips and either, flour, water, and peppermint oil, or liquid starch. If using flour, add enough water to white flour to make a thin paste, and add a little peppermint oil for scent.
Tie yarn around the balloon ends ahead of time. Instruct your students to dip strips of newspaper into the paste, gently run the strip between their fingers to remove excess paste, and lay flat on the balloon. This is repeated until the balloon is covered with a good layer of strips. The balloon must be set aside to dry, at least overnight.
If you choose to use styrofoam balls instead of balloons, you will need to insert a hook in the ball from which to hang from the ceiling with string.
After the paper mache planets are dry, paint them each different colors that represent how we see them. Suggestions:
Mercury: Red on one side, black on the other.
Venus: Perhaps a light greenish-yellow, or very light brown.
Earth: Blue and green with white poles.
Jupiter: Swirls of browns and reds.
Saturn: Pink and light blue or beige. Remember she has rings.
Uranus: Light blue.
Neptune: The same or very slightly darker than Uranus.
After the planets are dry, attach Saturn's rings (below) and hang from your ceiling, in correct order from the painted sun to Pluto.
To attach Saturn's rings to Saturn, try poking three holes with a needle and inserting three thin wires into the painted, dry, paper mache planet. Take metallic pipe cleaners, and make a long braid that will more than reach around Saturn. Wrap the other end of the wires around the pipe cleaners, and hand Saturn.