Year 5: Earth and Space
This list consists of lesson plans, activities and video clips to support the teaching of Earth and Space in Year Five. It contains tips on using the resources, suggestions for further use and background subject knowledge. Possible misconceptions are highlighted so that teachers may plan lessons to facilitate correct conceptual understanding. Designed to support the new curriculum programme of study it aims to cover many of the requirements for knowledge and understanding and working scientifically. The statutory requirements are that children are taught to:
• describe the movement of the Earth, and other planets, relative to the Sun in the solar system
• describe the movement of the Moon relative to the Earth
• describe the Sun, Earth and Moon as approximately spherical bodies
• use the idea of the Earth’s rotation to explain day and night and the apparent movement of the sun across the sky.
Visit the primary science webpage to access all lists.
Links and Resources
Working in groups, children research the eight planets, comets and asteroids in our Solar System. They find out about moons and rings, which planets have them and the colours of the different planets. Each group researches one object and produces a fact sheet, which they present to the class and combine into a class encyclopedia. This resource has been provided by ESA (European Space Agency).
This presentation looks at many often misunderstood concepts such as: the spin of the Earth and how this explains day and night, the orbit of the Earth around the sun, the phases of the moon and eclipses of both the sun and the moon.
Introducing these concepts concepts visually through a presentation and providing ideas for practical activities will help children to gain a correct understanding of the science of the Earth, Sun and Moon.
Slide 22 may help with the misconception that the Moon makes its own light whereas it reflects the light of the Sun, just as the planets do. In fact, the bright part of the Moon is experiencing daytime.
The section on the Earth, Sun and Moon begins on slide 10 of the presentation.
Children may think that day and night is caused by the sun going behind the Earth or hiding behind clouds rather than because the Earth spins on its axis taking 24 hours or one day to do so. Having children model a spinning globe facing a light source is a great way of helping them to understand why we have day and night.
Try putting a little flag or small plastic figure on the UK and ask them at different points in the spin of the globe wether it is daytime or nightime in the UK and why they know this. Another flag could be put on Australia so they can see that whilst some countries have daytime others have night as they are facing away from the sun.
Session B in this lesson pack provides an investigation on sundials which further help children see that the Earth spins on its axis and this results in day and night.
Other lessons in this resource, produced by the Hamilton Trust, look at:
• Earth, Moon and Sun
• Eclipses and seasons
• Moon phases
• Star constellations
Teachers often find that this topic is difficult to make practical . This resource contains fun experiments that help children learn the skills of practical investigation. Analyse martian soil samples to find evidence of life, investigate craters and volcanoes and find the best site for a Mars rover. An excellent way of working scientifically using space as a context.
Discuss with children what shape the moon is and shape it appears to us when looking into the sky. Children may have observed the Phases of the Moon but many will be unclear as to why we see them. Some children may think that they are caused by a shadow from the Earth, clouds, or the Earth's or Moon's rotation. This clip shows that we see the Phases of the Moon because our perspective of the Moon's sunlit appearance changes as it orbits Earth.
Another common misconception about the phases of the moon is that people in different countries see different phases of the Moon on the same day. Remind children that everyone sees the same phases of the Moon on the same day, perhaps by sticking a figure on the map on different countries and having children point to the phase of the moon for today.
Is the Moon only seen at night? I have yet to see a children's drawing which shows the moon out in the day so children will believe this to be the case. This resource will ensure that children know we can see the moon both in the day and at night. The only phases of the Moon that cannot be seen in the day are full moon (which is usually only visible at night) and the new moon (which is not visible from Earth at all).
In viewing six of the eight phases of the Moon during school hours it ensures that children are going out and viewing the moon. If set as a homework task in the evening it may be forgotten or some children may find it difficult without guidance.
Create a Moon Diary and ask children to sketch the shape of the moon visible each day over one month so they can see the pattern over time. Remind them that the shape of the moon will be the same no matter where in the world it is viewed on the same day.
Moonrise and Moonset times may be found here:
Using fruit to model the Solar System sounds like a lot of fun and a great way of looking at the relative sizes of the planets and their distance from the Sun. Try to develop their thinking skills by asking children to take an educated guess as to which planet each fruit represents.
This physical representation may help children see that the Earth is not the largest object in our Solar System. It also offers an opportunity to discuss the Sun as the centre of the Solar System about which the other objects revolve.
It may also a good time to point out that the Sun is the only star in our Solar System. Children often think that there are other stars as they see stars in the night sky. These stars are in fact very, very far away from our Solar System.
This resource is an excellent source of information for teachers who want to extend or refresh their ideas about Earth, Sun and Moon. It also details examples of children's understanding of the topic and notes on how to develop their existing knowledge on these tricky concepts.
Page 88 on the pdf shows a useful demonstration of how the tilt of the Earth affects seasonal change. Ask children to model in small groups why they think we have seasons using the globe and a light source.
Seeing what they think is a good starting point before teaching this topic and a way of knowing which misconceptions need to be dispelled. For example children often think it's hotter in summer because the Earth is facing the sun or because the sun is closer to the Earth.
When demonstrating why we have seasons by modelling the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, make sure that the directions in which the poles point remain the same- this is shown in the diagram.
Build a re-entry capsule to allow your eggnaut to safely return to earth. A lovely group activity that develops thinking skills and allows children to consider Newton's Laws of Motion whilst designing their capsules. Whilst discussing gravity it is worth mentioning that the Moon does have gravity, but because it has less mass than the Earth, it has 1/6 of Earth's gravity at its surface. This could be highlighted using a clip of an astronaught walking on the Moon as they don't float away but bounce lightly off its surface.
A great resource with lots of ideas for planning lessons across the curricuum using space as a stimulus.
Looks at life in space and what is it like to live and work on board the International Space Station.
It includes: background information, worksheets, colour posters and a teachers' guide.
This collection contains lots of activity ideas for Earth and Space including:
- Myths which explain the formation of star constellations, phases of the moon, the creation of the Earth and the Sun and Moon.
- “The Earth goes on a Spin”; in which children role-play the Sun and the Earth.
- Solar System activities
This collection of short animations introduce us to Paxi, the alien explorer and European Space Agency mascot. Paxi introduces himself, then explores the Solar System, investigates comets and looks at how scientists aim to find out if there is evidence for life on Mars. These animations are a great introduction to learning about space and ESA missions in a way that is accessible to children.