Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for grades 4-8. students use BrainPOP resources (including a free online interactive) to explore the vastness of the universe and the size and distance between constellations, planets, and galaxies in the universe.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Compare and order planets by size, age, and distance from Earth.


  • Computers with internet access for BrainPOP and GameUp
  • A set of printable Sizing Up the Universe game materials for each student or group


In Sizing Up the Universe, students play an online interactive that brings the universe down to size. It will help students understand the vastness of size and distance between the constellations, planets, and galaxies in our universe.

You may wish to view the curriculum resources from Smithsonian Education to learn more about the topic and interactive. You’ll also find in-depth lesson plans and activity ideas. Portions of this lesson plan have been adapted from the curriculum resources.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Play the Solar System and/or Galaxies movie for the class.
  2. Distribute 7 of the Sizing Up the Universe game material printables to students. Have students work independently or in groups to arrange the cards in order from nearest to the Earth to the farthest.
  3. Challenge students to justify the order they chose to a partner or group member.
  4. Next, prompt students to use the recording sheet to write down their thoughts.
  5. Have students repeat the activity, this time ordering the cards from closest to the Earth to farthest, and then from youngest to oldest.
  6. Introduce students to the Sizing Up the Universe interactive. Provide time for students to explore the interactive in pairs.
  7. Encourage students to rethink the information they wrote on their recording sheets. Have them record their second ideas, justifying the order they chose and relating their decisions back to what they learned during game play.
  8. Assess student learning using the game quiz. You can also have students reflect (orally or in writing) about how studying the scale of the universe made them feel. Some people say they feel insignificant after understanding the scale of the universe, while others say it makes them feel that life on Earth is special. Challenge students to articulate their view. Solar System video for the class.

Extension Activities:

As an extension activity, have students choose a card, and answer the math or logic problem on the back of it.