Monday, May 6, 2013

Using Greek Mythology to Understand the Solar System Part II

As seen in a previous post, there was great interest in the location of the moon in our solar system, and in an effort to deepen their research to find out the facts, we continued our book research.  K. noticed that in one book, there was a sculpture (a 19th century hand-operated planetarium) that showed more than one moon:  "I think it was Mars with two or three moons."

This posed the question:  Is there more than one moon?  How many moons are there?

I:  Is there a moon for each planet?
B:  Maybe two or three for each planet?
R:  There is more than one moon.  I know this because of the books I looked at.  You can see the other moons when we go up to space.
S/I:  You can see all kinds of moons:  half moon, quarter moon, full moon...
F:  But those are all the same moon!
R: It's the same moon, but the sun is not getting reflected off the part you can't see.  In crescent, it's almost all dark.  It's dangerous to go to the moon when it's in crescent.  You'd be in the dark and you couldn't find your way back.  
S:  There's a medium moon, a half moon, a crescent moon, and a full moon.
K:  These are the phases.  We can only see the part that's light.  But where it's dark, the moon is still there.  

In a lovely “aha!” moment, K., our resident Greek mythology scholar, noticed that all of the planets were named after Greek/Roman gods and goddesses.  Using what they knew about Greek mythology, the children became even more invested in building a model of the solar system, this time, using the gods and goddesses that the planets are named after, as well as their attendant moons.  Each child in the planet group chose a planet to investigate, and were encouraged to learn what facts they could about their planet, what god/goddess it was named after and why, its location relative to the sun, and how many moons it might have.  

When trying to figure out how many moons each planet had, the children learned a valuable research lesson:  it is necessary to consult more than one source.  At one point, they thought that Uranus and Jupiter had only a few moons, and were very surprised when we went online and found that these gas giants had over sixty each.  They also came to realize the moons orbit around their planet.  

Above: Mercury (a very tiny little planet)

Left (top/bottom) and right:  Venus (Aphrodite) 


Earth and our moon
(envisioned as Artemis) 

Mars (and its two moons) 

Jupiter (Zeus) on his throne:

Above: Saturn (Saturnus):  R: This is Saturnus. He has wheat, watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries.  He has a little underground farm (it's secret).  
He's holding a ring.  The ring never ends.  It shows a never ending life.  
The planet has multiple rings that split up.  

Above: Uranus (and little moons...back when K. originally thought it only had four)
Below: Neptune (Poseidon and one moon...back when I. thought it only had one)

Further research revealed that we'd need to make many more moons for Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.  N. helped the group understand the reason behind all these extra moons:

N:  The reason why the gas planets have to many moons is that they're larger and have more gravitational pull.

Once the group figured out how many more moons we needed to make, it did seem a daunting task:  as D. said in the video below:  "Great moons of Jupiter!"

To handle the work, R. suggested we create a moon making machine, 
and the children all joined in to help out:

Counting the moons of Jupiter by tens
 The children had to count carefully. Recently, in our math investigations, 
they have been learning to count by twos, fives, and tens, 
and counting out the large number of moons for the gas giants 
gave them extra practice with these skills.  
Each large group of moons was counted using each of these three methods.  

The children are now co-constructing a new picture of the universe, 
using their new knowledge about the moons and the planets.

1 comment:

  1. The drawings and sculptures are beautiful. It is wonderful how their new knowledge of Greek mythology fueled their confidence and excitement when exploring the solar system.