21st Century Integration Model

Title: A Planetary Comparison
Subject: Science
Grade Level: 6 through 8
See Planet Venn Diagram,
an example of student project.

Lesson Summary

Science NetLinks presents an investigation that focuses on the part of the universe that is most familiar to students: the solar system. In middle school, students can begin to add more detail to their picture of the solar system and the universe, paying increasing attention to matters of scale and distance. In this original lesson students create a scale model of the solar system and gain a deeper understanding of its magnitude. In the extension students use the NASA application "What's the Difference" and an interactive graphic organizer to process their ideas.

Original Lesson Plan

Original Objectives

Students will investigate and design planetary models of size and distance and explain their relation to other objects in our solar system.

21st Century Skills Integration Objective(s)

Students will demonstrate critical thinking skills by comparing characteristics of objects within our solar system. Students will demonstrate ICT Literacy skills by organizing their thoughts on a Venn diagram.


  1. Before lesson: This activity can be conducted before or after having students create their model of the solar system. To begin, download "What's the Difference" application from NASA's Learning Technologies site onto each student computer. After downloading this program you will need to unzip the folder. The solar system activity can be found in the WTD folder. It may help to place this icon on the desktop or a location that students can access easily.
  2. Lesson Extension: Have students launch this program and choose three planets to compare (it is most applicable to have one of these planet be Earth). Students will need to launch the extra window that this program offers in order to compare a third planet.
  3. There are 20 categories available in the "What's the Difference" tool that students can use to identify their similarities and differences. Students should go to the Interactive Venn Diagram tool and identify differences for each planet, similarities between individual planets and similarities between all planets. Students must print out their completed work as there is no save feature on this site.


The assessment should be based on the accuracy of items the student has included in each portion of their Venn diagram. A minimum numbers of similarities and differences can also be established for assessment purposes. A total score can be based on a composite of these two factors.