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Incredible Edible Solar System

This is an activity designed by Jean Settle of St. Louis, Missouri. Ms. Settle is a faculty member of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. The activity is designed for primary grades, particularly K-3, for development of Spatial Intelligence. The Solar System that is constructed shows gives very general information about the order in which the planets occur, and a few clues about their basic color and size characteristics. The constructed Solar System is not to scale, neither in terms of distance from the Sun or diameter of each planet.

All you need to construct the Edible Solar System is listed below. The Solar System is constructed by using cake frosting to glue candy of different colors and sizes onto a paper plate. The orbits of the 9 planets are drawn on the plate, then the planets, represented by candies of different colors and sizes, are affixed to the plate using the frosting.

What You Do

  1. Appropriate candies, popsicle stick, and waxed paper square are placed in a ziploc bag - one per student or group.

  2. Instructor (or student, depending upon skill level) draws orbits for the 9 planets on the paper plates. A compass can be used to do this. The orbits do not have to be scaled unless the instructor wants to get this point across.

  3. Give each student a plate, a bag containing the candy, popsicle stick, and waxed paper.

  4. Designate a student to distribute a teaspoon of cake frosting to each participant. The frosting is placed on the waxed paper.

  5. Using the popsicle stick, put some frosting "glue" on one side of the butterscotch candy, representing the Sun. Place this candy at the center of the plate.

  6. Using the same method, have students affix each of the nine planets to its appropriate orbit. We suggest that Pluto be placed after Neptune, because while Pluto is presently closer to the Sun than Neptune (until 2000), Pluto's average orbit radius is greater than that of Neptune. Instruct students at each step, and tell them a little bit about each planet as they glue it into place. For example, note that Mars is red, Jupiter is the biggest planet, Neptune is blue, we are using yellow for Pluto, but no one knows for sure what color it is, etc.

  7. Note that Jupiter is the planet with a big Red Spot. Show the students a picture of Jupiter with the spot Glue the red-hot candy on top of Jupiter (mint) to represent the Red Spot.

  8. Note that Saturn is known for its brilliant rings. Have students pass the tube of orange icing around the room; each student can "paint" Saturn's rings onto the candy (yellow lemon-drop) using the orange tube of icing. You might also want to point out that Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune also have rings, but it is up to you whether to have students use frosting to represent these. Show them pictures of the ringed planets.

  9. Now that the Incredible Edible Solar System is complete, the student should take it home. At dinnertime, the student should show it to the family, explain what each candy represents. The family then may EAT the Solar System for dessert!

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  What You Need

  • Paper plates
  • Compass
  • Different sized hard candies to represent the planets (butterscotch for the sun; red hots, mints, etc.)
  • Colored, large crystal decorating sugar (for the asteroid belt)
  • Frosting
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Waxed paper

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