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Scaling the Solar System into Downtown Asheville

School: Evergreen Community Charter School

City/State: Asheville, NC

Grade(s): 6

Format(s): Model: Architectural

Subject(s): Mathematics, Science and Technology

Project Overview

It is hard to grasp just how expansive our Solar System really is. As a way to make this abstract concept more realistic, sixth-grade students at Evergreen Community Charter School scaled the planets into downtown Asheville, North Carolina. As part of an Earth and Beyond Expedition, this project began with learning the basics of scale and grappling with how to fit something as big as the solar system inside a classroom. This proved to be extremely challenging, but the students persevered. They then transferred this knowledge to the EL Trail, a multi-use trail that surrounds the campus.

They learned how to use ratios as they scaled distances from Astronomical Units in space to feet when walking in real life to inches on a map. Students began to understand the challenging math work behind this concept. The students then taught third-grade students about the project and walked them through the EL Trail model.

Once they understood this, it was time to move this to downtown Asheville and connect with local businesses. Each sixth-grader designed a scaled walk through Asheville on a downtown map. They chose businesses they love, as well as ones they thought tourists would like to visit. The intention was to promote local businesses and bring more visitors to each location. Students presented their designs to each other and voted on one student’s work to represent the entire sixth grade.

In Art class, students created ceramic 12” x 12” tiles to represent the sun and each of the planets. They designed, decorated and glazed the plaques.  A parent volunteer helped secure each plaque to a wooden board to make them easy to hang in the businesses. Students also created a brochure to explain the project and to provide a map for participants to follow. Businesses loved connecting with students and were overwhelmingly supportive of the project.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Excellent example of a project that engages a community and creates relationships between the school and local businesses
  • Shows how math skills can be used in a unique way and illustrates a progression of learning
  • Good example of sixth-grade students using their new knowledge to teach younger students

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