Saturday, April 19, 2014

Super Simple Earth Models for Children, Fun and Engaging

Earth Day is just a few days away!  I would like to provide you with a "How To" for one of my favorite activities for first graders around this time of the year.  It's making "Earth Balls"  The Earth Balls are super simple to make and are a great hands on activity for children!
He wasn't so confident at first.  He was thinking, "How on Earth do I get this to spin?"
In Virginia, one of the science Standards of Learning (SOL) for first graders is to develop a basic understanding of the relationship between the Earth and the Sun. By the time students finish the fourth grade, they'll need to know some facts about the eight planets in our solar system, their sequence based on size of the planet, and sequence based on proximity to the Sun. The "Earth Balls" spark enthusiasm for more learning about the Earth, the Sun and beyond. Best of all, they're fun to spin . . . just as Earth itself spins!
The photo above shows most of the items you'll need to make the "Earth Balls".  You will also need smocks and disposable cups for the paint and the "Earth Balls."
Here's what you'll need to make the "Earth Balls"

1.  Foam Balls - 3 inches in size (76 mm)  They sell them in packages of 6 in some craft shops.

2.  Yarn - Pick an "Earthy" color or use white.

3.  Paint brushes.  Thick paint brushes will allow for faster completion of the activity.

4.  Large, plastic needles  Make sure you get at least two.  Usually they're sold two per pack.

5.  Water based, non-toxic acrylic, blue paint. 
6.  Water based, non-toxic acrylic, green paint.  (You will use less green paint than blue paint.)

Regarding # 5 and # 6, Use acrylic paint. 
Don't modify this part.
7.  Smocks.  (Make sure the kids roll up their sleeves.)

8.  Plastic disposable cups for the paint.  (Don't attempt to recycle the cups.  Toss them!  The acyrlics are a mess to try and clean up.)

9.  Cups to use as a stand for the "Earth Balls" while painting is in progress.

10.  Optional:  Plastic gallon sized bags for storing individual "Earth Balls".
Start by painting the "Earth Ball" blue.  This will represent the water.  Have them paint the entire ball blue.
If you look closely, you'll see a small cup below the "Earth Ball".  This was necessary so he could turn the ball and paint the entire surface blue.  Be prepared for some children to get paint on their hands.  It's best to keep some hand wipes close by.
I used a disposable cup for the blue paint.  I used a cup that is not too deep but doesn't tip over easily.
Once the balls are covered with blue paint, set them aside to dry.  It will be best to allow them to dry overnight and you should try to turn them before you leave for the day to ensure that the opposite side can dry well.  If you are trying to get them done in one day.  Do the blue painting early in the day.  Then do the green painting at the end of the day allowing at least a few hours of drying time in between the two paintings.
We used green paint to represent the land.  We were happy with a very abstract representation of the Earth.  That is, land and water.  Everyone was content without detailed continents. 
I emphasized that 70% of the Earth's surface is made up of water. Therefore, there needed to be less green paint used than blue. If you decide to do this as a classroom project, and are required to assign an evaluation/grade for it, you could consider this as one of the criteria . . . more water represented than land. I would make any expectations about this clear before starting the project.  My little fellow was intense when he worked on this! 

Once the students have finished adding the green paint, set aside and allow the "Earth Balls" to dry overnight.  You will need to find a way of tracking the "Earth Balls".  We used gallon sized plastic bags.  I wrote the names on the plastic bags and put the DRY "Earth Balls" inside of the bags.  Now, brace yourself for the hard part . . . and . . . YOU, teacher, or a great parent volunteer, will need to be the one to do this.  The children will not be able to help you.  Set aside about 45 minutes of your time to get this done . . . depending on how many "Earth Balls" you have to prepare.
Lace one of the needles with a piece of yarn.  Cut about a yard or so length of yarn.  (Wow!  That wasn't so bad!)
1.  Lace one of the needles with a piece of yarn.  Don't put a knot in the yarn.
Push the tip of the needle into the "Earth Ball".  (Still not so bad.  Right?)

2.  Push the tip of the needle into the "Earth Ball".
Push the needle in some more.  Push it in until all that shows is a small portion of the eye of the needle.  The hole should not be as big as the one shown above.
3.  Push the needle in some more.  Push it in until all that shows is a small portion of the eye of the needle.
Here's the hard part!  Use the second needle to guide the first needle through the other end of the "Earth Ball".
 4.  Use the second needle to guide the first needle through the other end of the "Earth Ball".  This takes a bit of agility and practice.  Once you see the initial needle emerge from the other end of the "Earth Ball", remove the guiding needle from the Styrofoam ball.
Pull the needle out through the "Earth Ball".  (You did it!)
5.  Pull the needle out of the "Earth Ball".  It seems to make it easier when I cover the exposed needle with a paper towel or rag and then pull the needle out of the "Earth Ball".
Once you have the string through the "Earth Ball", remove the needle.  You will have both ends of the yarn exposed.
6.  Once you have the string through the "Earth Ball", remove the needle.  You will have both ends of the yarn exposed.
7.  Repeat until all the "Earth Balls" are "laced".  Trim yarn as needed so that the children can hold both ends comfortably. 
Caution the children to avoid pulling the yarn out of either of the two ends of the "Earth Ball".  If you are concerned about this happening, you could knot the two ends together.  (I don't knot the ends.)  There have been occasions when the yarn comes out of the "Earth Balls".  You can string them over again. 
Now we're ready for some fun!  This part can be done inside the classroom or outside.  Assign pairs or groups in three's.  For the paired activity, have one student hold the yarn taut (one end of the yarn in one hand and the other end in the other hand).   The other child simply spins the Earth with his/her hand.  For the groups of three, one child holds one end of the yarn, the second child hold the other end of the yarn, and the third child spins the Earth with his/her hand. 
When the students have become comfortable with the above, let them try to spin their "Earth balls" independently, with their hands off the "Earth Balls."  Allow them to experiment with the movement of the "Earth Balls" by moving the yarn around and around, moving with the yarn held loosely, and moving with the yarn held tightly.
Have them experiment with the movement of the yarn. Have them explore what movements cause slow spins and what movement cause fast spins. Have them try to reverse the direction of the spin.
The "Earth Balls" can be marked with a black permanent marker. The children can try counting the number of revolutions.
Once he got the hang of it, he was able to make the "Earth" move fast!

The "Earth Balls" can also be used to explore concepts of day and night. A push pin can be inserted into the "Earth Ball" to represent a person living on Earth. A flashlight can then be used to represent the Sun. Shine the flashlight on the side facing the push pin for "day". (The "person" has daylight.) Rotate the Earth so the push pin is facing away from the flashlight. The "person" has night.

You might also like this freebie printable book for k-1.  Click the image below to get the freebie. 

 Lessons by Molly © 2014  All rights reserved.

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