‘Draw Your Own Encyclopaedia Our Solar System’ Author-Led Classroom Visit

Are you a primary school teacher in Scotland looking for an author-led classroom visit that’s a little bit different? Do you want a workshop that will combine reading comprehension, practical demonstrations and out-door learning?

If so, then this might just be the classroom visit you are looking for! For more information, read on, and to enquire about booking a class visit, or if you need any additional information, simply fill in the contact form below.

Based around the recently published factual children’s book titled Draw Your Own Encyclopaedia Our Solar System by Colin M. Drysdale, these classroom visits are best suited to children in Primary Two to Primary Six (although they can be successfully done for children as young as Primary One and as old as Primary Seven).

Lasting approximately one hour (depending on the time slot available), and costing £50 for each class visited (plus the cost of travelling to the school), these classroom visits start by introducing students to what a solar system is. This leads on to an interactive introduction to what the biggest planet in our solar system is, what the smallest is, why Pluto isn’t a planet, how big the entire solar system is, and how far each planet is from the Sun. This introduction incorporates reading comprehension, practical demonstrations and out-door learning. In addition, the activities undertaken during this class visit help the students learn how to put facts they read in books into a more meaningful context by comparing the facts they read to more familiar objects (such as how big different planets are in relation to Earth, how much a two pint bottle of milk would weigh on other planets and how far apart the different planets would be if the solar system was drawn at a scale of one centimetre to two million kilometres). A more detailed description of what usually happens during each visit can be found below.

The visits are led by Dr Colin M. Drysdale (the author of Draw Your Own Encyclopaedia Our Solar System), who has  spent over twenty years working as a research scientist.

Note: If you wish, we can also provide copies of Draw Your Own Encyclopaedia Our Solar System for each student in the class at a 50% reduction on the RRP. This means that each copy would cost £3.74, rather than the usual £6.99. This allows these interactive books to be used in follow-up activities to help develop and embed the knowledge the students have gained during the visit itself.

Contact Form

If you would like to book a class visit, or if you would like any further information, simply fill in the contact form below using the subject Solar System Book Classroom Visit Enquiry and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can email us directly at info[at]pictishbeastpublications.com.

Additional Information About What Usually Happens During These Class Visits

An author-led classroom visit based around Draw Your Own Encyclopaedia Our Solar System involves working with an individual class. The visit starts with the students being introduced to the book itself and the subject it covers, and they are then taken through a series of activities based around information from it, including:

  1. Asking the children to answer questions about what a solar system is, what the biggest planet in our solar system is, what the smallest is, why Pluto isn’t a planet, how big the entire solar system is, and how far individual planets are from the Sun. If you have chosen to purchase books for your students to accompany this visit, this will involve the children having to read and comprehend it in order to answer the question (if needed, they are given a hint as to which page the answer is on).
  2. Investigating the sizes of different planets in our solar system. This is done using balloons to show how big each planet is at a scale of one centimetre to two thousand kilometres. At this scale, the balloon representing the Earth is 6.37 centimetres in diameter, while that for Mercury (the smallest planet) is just 2.44 centimetres and the one for Jupiter (the largest planet) is 69.9 centimetres. This provides a practical demonstration of the relative sizes of each planet in our solar system. To create this demonstration, the students will be divided into groups, and each group will be assigned a planet. Younger students will be asked to inflate a balloon to the appropriate size, while older students will be provided with information about the actual diameter of each planet, and will be asked to calculate the size that the balloon needs to be to represent their assigned planet before inflating the balloon to this size.
  3. Investigating how much the same object would weigh on different planets. Due to their different masses, the same object will have different weights on different planets. This is demonstrated using two-pint milk containers filled with weights to that the weigh the same as they would on each planet. The container for each planet is placed in front of the balloon representing it, and the students are encouraged to come forward and lift each one to feel the differences in weight. As part of this demonstration, older students will be provided with information about the relative strength of the surface gravity, and will be asked to calculate the exact weight of the milk bottle on the planet which has been assigned to their group.
  4. Investigating how long a day lasts on different planets. This is demonstrated by scaling an Earth day to one second. The students are then asked to spin round at different speeds to represent the spin rate, and so the day length, of the Earth (one rotation per second), Jupiter (just over two rotations per second), Mercury (one rotation per minute) and Venus (one rotation every four minutes!). The provides a practical demonstration of the variation in day length on different planets.
  5. Investigating the relative positions of each planet in the solar system. This is demonstrated by taking the students into an outside space (such as a playground), and then marking out the positions and orbits of each planet on a scale of one metre to two million kilometres. At this scale, Mercury (the closest planet), is just 29 cm from the Sun, while the Earth is 75 cm. Neptune, the furthest planet, is 22.46 metres away, while Pluto is 29.3 metres and Sedna, the furthers observable object is 72 metres away. Younger students will be provided with these measurements, while older students will be asked to calculate the appropriate distance for the planet assigned to their group.
  6. Investigating how long a year lasts on each planet. This is demonstrated by asking the students to walk around the orbits of each planet at a rate that would be equivalent to a year on Earth lasting one minute. At this scale, it would take Mercury only fourteen seconds to orbit the Sun, while it would take Mars 1 minute 53 seconds, Jupiter 11 minutes and 52 seconds, and Neptune 2 hours 44 minutes and 47 seconds.

A suggested follow-up activity is for the teacher to re-visit the facts that the students learned during the visit, and ask them to write down the fact and draw a picture of the planet or celestial object associated with it. This can include drawing scale drawings of the positions of the different planets and of their relative sizes.

All the equipment required to conduct all these activities (including books, balloons, tape measures, and chalk for making out the orbit of planets) is provided.