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Orbiting Objects: Moons, Comets, and Asteroids of the Solar System

Grade Level: 3rd Grade
Subject: Science
Duration: 1 Day


By the end of this lesson, your students will be able to understand what moons, comets, and asteroids are. They will determine the basic characteristics and differences between celestial objects. And they will explore how these objects move and interact within our solar system.


Lesson Structure

1. Introduction (15 minutes)

Show: Play a short, engaging video clip of a comet passing through our solar system.

Discuss: Ask students what they think the objects in the video were and where they might be found. Write their answers on the board.

Say: Explain that today's lesson will explore the objects that orbit the Sun in our solar system: moons, comets, and asteroids.

2. Direct Instruction (20 minutes)

Say: Use a digital presentation or other images to explain:

  • Moons: Natural satellites that orbit planets.

    • Example: Earth's Moon.

  • Comets: Icy bodies that release gas and dust, forming a glowing head and tail when near the Sun.

    • Example: Halley's Comet.

  • Asteroids: Rocky objects, smaller than planets, mostly found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

    • Example: Ceres.

Show: Using a globe (as a planet) and small balls (as moons, comets, and asteroids), demonstrate how each object orbits and moves through the solar system.

3. Guided Practice (20 minutes)

Do: Divide your students into small groups. Give each group chart paper and markers to create a poster:

  • Group 1: Characteristics of Moons

  • Group 2: Characteristics of Comets

  • Group 3: Characteristics of Asteroids

Discuss: Have each group present their poster to the class. Discuss the similarities and differences they found.

4. Independent Practice (25 minutes)

Do: Hand out worksheets (or create your own with questions about the characteristics and orbits of moons, comets, and asteroids. Include sections for students to draw their own comet or asteroid.)

Do: Read Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System or show the corresponding video to reinforce the lesson content.

5. Review and Assessment (15 minutes)

Discuss: Review key points about moons, comets, and asteroids. Ask your students to share one new thing they learned.

Ask: What is a moon? What happens to a comet when it gets close to the Sun? Where are most asteroids found in our solar system?

Say: Summarize the day's lesson and emphasize the importance of these objects in our solar system.

Extra Activities:

  • Model Building: Have your students use clay or other materials to create models of moons, comets, and asteroids.

  • Orbit Simulation: Create a simulation of the solar system in the classroom or schoolyard using a large ball as the Sun and smaller balls as planets, moons, comets, and asteroids. Have your students move in orbits to understand the paths of these objects.

  • Research Project: Assign a research project in which your students research more information about a specific comet, moon, or asteroid and present their findings to the class.

  • Interactive Games: Use online games and simulations about the solar system and its objects to reinforce learning.

  • Family Space Night: Organize a family space night where your students and their families can watch a documentary about space, engage in star-gazing activities, and share what they have learned.


To test your class's knowledge, try the following assignments:

  • Assign a creative project where students draw or make a model of a moon, comet, or asteroid, including a short description of their chosen object.

  • Create and give an interactive quiz using tools like Kahoot! or Quizizz to review the lesson's content.

  • Have your students keep a reflection journal where they write about what they learned each day, questions they have, and what they found most interesting about the lesson.


Grade your students on the following criteria:

  • Participation in class discussions.

  • Involvement in group poster assignment.

Cross-Disciplinary Connections:

  • Math Connection: Incorporate math by having your students calculate distances between celestial objects, the size of objects, or the speed at which they travel through the solar system.

  • Language Arts Connection: Have your students write a short story or a diary entry from the perspective of a moon, comet, or asteroid. This will encourage creativity and reinforce their understanding of these objects' characteristics.

Additional Resources:

Written by Rachel Jones

Education World Contributor

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