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20 October 2014
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Physics: The Earth and Beyond

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The Earth and beyond lesson plan

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KS3 Bitesize


  • All students should know the planets in our solar system orbit the Sun
  • Most students should know how movement of the Earth causes daily and annual movement of the Sun and stars
  • Some students will know how artificial satellite and probes are used

Bitesize English fish

National Curriculum

  • Sc4.4


  • Internet resource for background information
  • Poster materials

Teaching activities


Give some descriptions of historical beliefs about the Earth and our Solar System e.g. Aristotle and Ptolemy's views on the Earth being at the centre of the universe; Copernicus and Galileo's views on the Sun being at the centre (see for information).


  1. Drawing our Solar System; Draw out a central circle. Stick foil / colour / identify the central circle as the Sun. Draw 9 concentric circles around it of increasing size. Draw a planet on each of the 9 ‘orbits'. Name as Mercury (inner), Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Pluto (outer). Explain the Planets all move round their pathway (orbit). The longer the orbit, the longer it takes them to get round (like running the different lanes on an athletic track). The gravity from the Sun keeps them on their orbit.
    Demo-Swing a ball on a string. The length of string represents the distance from the Sun- the size of orbit changes.
  2. Q. Ask what students can see in the sky. Guide towards the answers ‘The Sun' during the day, and ‘the stars' during the night. Use this to reinforce the fact that the Sun and stars are sources of light energy. Stars are suns in their own solar systems billions of miles away. Planets such as MVEMJSUNP can only reflect light from the Sun.
  3. As well as going around the Sun, the Earth (and all planets) spin on their axis (daylength). Ask 2 students to represent the Earth and Sun. If the ‘Earth' spins as it walks around the ‘Sun', students can see how the Sun is only visible for half of the spin (day), and that the Sun appears to move across the sky.


  • Ask students to predict how long the year is for all the planets in our Solar System. They should explain the answer they give.


  • Collect articles and information about Space Probes / Satellites and what they have been used for

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