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Mobile Planetarium Shows

Free Lesson Plans

LP5: Dwarf Planets

Lesson 5:

Dwarf Planets


  1. To learn about Dwarf Planets and their moons.
  2. To learn how Dwarf Planets are different from other objects in the Solar System, such as planets, asteroids and comets.

Age group: this lesson can be adapted to suit a wide age group from Y4 to Y8.

Time: 60 – 90 minutes

* to make a “Space day” themed around small bodies of the Solar System use lesson 4 in the

  morning and lesson 5 in the afternoon


  1. Meet the Dwarf Planets song
  2. Meet the Dwarf Planets Lyrics
  3. Information sheet 1: Michael Brown
  4. Interview with Michael Brown video (8 minutes long)
  5. Information sheet 2: Dwarf planets
  6. Dwarf Planets table
  7. Pluto and its moons video
  8. Dwarf Planets word search game
  9. Pictures of the Dwarf Planets: Eris, Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, Pluto


In this lesson, the children learn a definition of a planet and find out why dwarf planets are different from planets, they watch an interview with an astronomer Michael Brown, responsible for Pluto’s losing his planetary status, then the children listen to a song about dwarf planets and sing along, they make a book of dwarf planet facts where they write down the information they learn from the teacher and discuss what they’ve learned about all five dwarf planets. At the end of the lesson the children play a word search game.



  1. What is a Dwarf Planet?
  • Ask the children what they think the dwarf planet is.
  • Ask the children if they can name any dwarf planets.

Tell the children, that in the beginning of the 19th century, astronomers started discovering objects between orbits of Mars and Jupiter. They called those objects planets. Later, those objects were reclassified as asteroids, “star-like” rocky bodies. In 1930 Pluto was discovered and became the planet 9. From the start Pluto looked quite peculiar, but it took many years of observations to find out that Pluto was the smallest in the Planet family and had much more elongated orbit than other planets. Then scientists started finding other objects in the same region of the Solar System where Pluto was. In 2005 an object later called Eris was discovered. It was thought to bigger than Pluto and orbited the Sun even further away! Scientists realized, that there might be other such objects on the outskirt of the Solar System and that Pluto is just a member of their family.

It was time for Pluto to stop being a planet!  

In 2006 scientists agreed on a definition of a planet.

To be a planet in the solar System, the object had to:

            1) be in orbit around the Sun

            2) be big and heavy enough so that its own gravity crushed it into a round shape

            3) clear the neighbourhood of smaller bodies around its orbit

And it is the 3rd requirement where Pluto and other dwarf planets fail!

  1. Interview with an astronomer Michael E Brown
  • Show the class an interview with astronomer Michael Brown where he tells about his    

           discovery of dwarf planet Eris and explains why it was important to reclassify Pluto.

  • You can use the information sheet (3) to introduce Professor Brown first.
  • Discuss the interview with the class.
  1. Dwarf Planet song
  • Listen to the “Meet the Dwarf Planets” song (1) with the class once.
  • Give each child the song’s lyrics and listen to the song again. Invite all the children to sing along.
  1. Dwarf Planet Book of Facts

               Tell the children, that now they are going to make a book about Dwarf Planets.     

          First, they will make the book, then they will fill the book with information.

  • To make the book, ask the children to fold pieces of blank A4 paper (four pieces of paper per book) in half and insert them one inside the other.
  • To make the book’s cover, tell the children to fold a piece of coloured paper in half and put it over the blank pages. They can decorate the cover later in class or take the book home.  
  • Give each child photographs (9) of all five dwarf planets (print it out so that it fits on A5 paper). Ask the children to cut the pictures out and paste them onto the pages 2,4,6,8, and 10 of their book. This way they will have the picture of the dwarf planet on the left and the relevant information on the right side of each two-page opening. Page 1 can be reserved for contents, one of the spare double pages at the end for the table of facts and the last double page can stay blank until the next dwarf planet is discovered!
  • Read the information (5) about each dwarf planet to the class, pausing as you read to let the children write the information down.
  • Project the Dwarf Planets table (6) onto the whiteboard and ask the children to copy it down. Give them 10 minutes to complete the task.   
  • When the books are complete, ask the children a few questions about the dwarf planets. They can use their books to answer.
  • Watch video (7) to enrich the children’s knowledge about Pluto – Charon system.


  1. Dwarf planets word search
  • Give each child a printout of a word search game (8) to play. The first to spot all the words is the winner!
  • Discuss the words in the game: starting with the first word, ask the children to tell you as many facts as they can related to that word, one fact at a time. Then move on to the next word.  
  • Praise the children for their hard work.


End of the lesson!


LP6: The Space Race

Lesson 6:

Space Race


  1. To learn what the Space Race was, which countries took part in the Space Race and why.
  2. To learn about the achievements in the space exploration that Space Race resulted in.
  3. To learn in more detail about the first man is space Yuri Gagarin and the first man on the Moon Neil Armstrong.

Age group: Y4 – Y6

Time: 60 minutes


  1. Information sheet: Space Race Timeline
  2. Events tables( timeline red and timeline blue)
  3. Pictures Sputnik 1, Explorer 1, Explorer 1 size, Yuri Gagarin, Alan Shepard, Apollo 11
  4. President John F Kennedy’s speech video
  5. Craft materials: paper plates, white paper, flour, white card


In this lesson, the children learn what the Space Race was, they make a timeline of the main achievements in space exploration that happened between 1955 and 1975, they use the internet to research about the first cosmonaut in space and the first astronauts on the Moon and then discuss what they’ve learned in the class, they share stories (prepared beforehand) from their relatives about the times when the first manned spaceflight and the first moonwalk were announced, they listen to a president Kennedy’s speech  “We choose to go to the Moon” and then try and write their own speeches, and finally they make a craft: an astronaut standing on the lunar surface.



Tell the children, that after the WWII the two countries, the USA and the Soviet Union, were involved in the Cold War. The Cold War wasn’t a real war, there were no soldiers fighting on a battlefield, it was a competition, a rivalry, where the countries sent spies to find out each other’s secrets, asked other countries to take their sides and tried to beat each other in inventing new things. Both countries tried to prove they were a better country with a better political system. Space race, a competition to be the first country to go into space, was just another way for the USA and the Soviet Union to try and prove their superiority.

  1. Timeline
  • Tell the children to take two pieces of coloured A4 paper each and put them next to each other so that the short sides are touching. Ask them to join the pieces together with a sellotape. Ask the children to use a ruler a marker to draw a horizontal arrow going across the centres of both pages. Ask the children to mark the years 1955 – 1975 on their time arrows. Additionally, they will need to cut out 10 blue and 10 red outlined events tables (2).
  • Read the information (1) about the main achievements in space exploration that happened during the Space Race to the class. The children will be filling in their timelines by writing about the relevant events in the tables (blue for those accomplished by the US, red for those accomplished by Soviet Union) and then attaching the tables to the time arrow next to the year it happened (there might be several events in the same year).
  • Show pictures (3) as you read the information (1).
  1. Vostok 1 and Apollo 11
  • Ask the children to use the school computers to find the information about the first man in space and first men on the Moon. Give them 10 minutes to complete the task.
  • Ask them questions regarding their research.
  1. Stories from relatives
  • A week before the planned lesson, ask the children to interview their relatives and family friends (and write down their stories) about the time when the first spaceflight and the first moonwalk were announced. How old were they? How did they find out about it (On the radio? Watched it live on the TV?) Were they excited about it? Inspired?
  • Ask the children to share their stories with the class.
  1. President’s speech. Listen and write your own
  • Watch the video (4) (turn the subtitles on!) where president of the United States John F Kennedy announces to the public the plans to land American astronauts on the Moon within the next ten years.
  • Discuss the speech with the class.
  • Tell the children to imagine themselves being a president. Their task would be to write their own presidential speech in which they would announce a plan for a space flight to a certain destination (they should decide on where to and when). The speech should be both inspiring and convincing so that the members of the public (represented by the rest of the class) approved of the proposal.
  • After hearing out some of the “presidents” willing to present their ideas, the class should decide on the best program (ask the children to take into account 1) whether the “president” has truly inspired “his people” by the speech and 2) whether the plan he proposed is both grand and achievable before making the choice).  
  1. Man On The Moon craft

          To make this craft, the children will need to:

  • Mix 2 parts of white paint (+a bit of black paint) with one part of flour
  • Spread the mixture over a paper plate turned upside down to make it look like the lunar surface ( don’t forget to make mountains and craters)
  • Draw an astronaut (ideally no more than 10 cm tall), on a piece of card (don’t forget to put the nameplate and flag on the spacesuit). Cut the astronaut out.
  • Attach the astronaut to the Moon.
  • Let the Moon dry completely before taking it home.

End of the lesson!

LP6 R1: Space Race – time line

July 1955 – American government makes an announcement that they are planning to launch a man-made satellite by the end of the year. Few days later the Soviet Union responds by saying they have similar intentions. This is the beginning of the Space Race.

October 4, 1957 – Soviet Union beats the USA and launches the first ever man-made satellite called “Sputnik 1”. It looks like a metal beachball with antennas and weighs over 80 kilograms. Sputnik 1 orbits the Earth for 22 days (with one orbit taking 98 minutes) before it runs out of power.

November 3, 1957 – the Soviet Union sends a dog Laika aboard “Vostok 2” spaceship.

January 31, 1958 – USA launches their first artificial satellite called “Explorer 1”. Explorer 1 is very light (just over 13 kg) compared to Sputnik 1 (over 80 kg). It has 5 scientific instruments on board. Explorer 1 orbits the Earth for almost four months before running out of power.

October 1, 1958 – NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, begins its work.

January 2, 1959 – The probe “Luna 1” is launched by the Soviet Union as a part of the Moon study program. The probe was meant to crush into the Moon but missed the target. Still, it makes some valuable measurements during the flight and sends the information back to Earth.

June 25, 1959 – the USA launches the first “spy” satellite “Discoverer 4” with a camera on board. Discoverer 4 fails to reach the orbit.

September 14, 1959 – “Luna 2”, Luna 1’s twin probe, performs a planned crash-landing on the Moon.

August 19, 1960 – the Soviet Union sends two dogs, Belka and Strelka, into space. They spend a day aboard “Sputnik 5” spacecraft accompanied by a rabbit, mice, rats, flies and some plants. All of them survive the journey and safely return back to Earth.

April 12, 1961 – the Soviet Union sends the first man into space. Cosmonaut (that’s how a Russian astronaut is called) Yuri Gagarin makes one orbit around the Earth in his spaceship Vostok 1, and safely lands about two hours later. Gagarin becomes a Soviet hero. Many streets in Russia now bear his name, as well as an asteroid and a crater on the far side of the Moon.

May 5, 1961 – less than a month after the Soviet Union, America sends their first astronaut Alan Shepard into space. Shepard performs suborbital flight (“suborbital” means that the spacecraft flies in a curve: only reaches the height where space starts and then descends again, no orbiting is performed) aboard “Freedom 7” that lasts 15 minutes.

May 19, 1961 –  Soviet Union’s spacecraft “Venera 1” performs the first ever fly past planet Venus. Unfortunately, the contact with Venera 1 is lost before the flyby.

August 6, 1961 – Soviet Union’s cosmonaut Gherman Titov spends 1 day 1 hour and 18 minutes in space aboard “Vostok 2” spaceship. He orbits the Earth 17 times before returning back. The goal of this expedition was to study how a long stay in space affects the human body.

February 20, 1962 – John Glenn becomes the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. He spends 5 hours aboard “Friendship 7” spacecraft and makes 3 orbits around the Earth.

June 16, 1963 – First woman as well a first civilian (meaning not a soldier) in space! Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova spends 3 days aboard  “Vostok 6” completing 48 orbits around the Earth. There is a Tereshkova crater on the far side of the Moon.

March 18, 1965 – Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov performs the first spacewalk (now we call them EVA – extravehicular activity). He spends 12 minutes and 9 seconds outside the “Voskhod 2” ship while another crew member, Pavel Belyaev, stays inside. Leonov’s task was to attach a camera to the airlock and videotape his spacewalk and to take a picture of a spaceship. The cosmonaut had difficulties returning back to the ship: his space suit inflated while he was outside so that he could not squeeze back through the airlock. Leonov had to get rid of some air in the suit to get back to Voskhod 2.

January 27, 1967 – Cabin fire during the ground test of Apollo 1 spacecraft kills all three astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White and Roger B. Chaffee.

November 9, 1967 – the USA launches “Apollo 4” spacecraft. Apollo 4 has no crew on board, The goal of the mission is to test the technology for future manned missions. It spends 9 hours in space before splash landing in the ocean.

July 20, 1969 – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the Moon. They spend over two hours outside the lunar module Eagle collecting the samples of the Moon rock. Michael Collins awaits their return in the command module of Apollo 11.

November 19, 1969 – Apollo 12 astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad and Alan N. Bean land on the Moon and spend 1 day and 7 hours on the surface. They collect the Moon rock and set up the equipment for the future measurements.The third crew member, Richard F. Gordon, waits for them in the lunar orbit.  

November 17, 1970 – The first Soviet lunar rover “Lunokhod 1” soft lands on the Moon. It will spend 322 days working on the Moon, sending images and data back to Earth.

April 23, 1971 – The Soviet Union launches the first ever space station Salyut 1.

December 11, 1972 – The last Apollo program spaceship, Apollo 17, lands on the Moon.

July 15, 1975 – The two spacecrafts, Soyuz 19 (with two cosmonauts, Alexei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov, on board) and Apollo (with three astronauts, Tom Stafford, Vance Brand and Deke Slayton, onboard) launch 7.5 hours apart. Three hours after the second launch the crews perform the first international space docking: the teams visit each other’s ships, exchange presents and do some joint experiments. After 44 hours together, the ships go their separate ways. Soyuz stays another 5, and Apollo another 9 days in orbit before returning back to Earth.

This is the end of the Space Race!


Free Lesson Plans about Space with our Mobile Planetarium visit


Free Lesson Plans for teachers who are looking for additional resources to complement our inflatable planetarium. We have developed lesson plans to cater for a range of year groups/ages. For example, Moon Of The Solar System provides an is a suitable resource to follow up our mobile planetarium visit where Y 4,5 or 6 learners were introduced to the solar system. The resource offers ideas for developing a further in-depth understanding of the Moon as a celestial object and its relation to Earth. For the younger audience lesson plan Planets allows embedding the knowledge gained in our presenter-led space mobile planetarium session.

To enhance space relate topic before or after mobile planetarium visit you can also look through a compilation list of web-pages where more resources can be found. BBC Education offers space knowledge material relevant to the British school curriculum. Other websites, such as for example Principia and UK Space Agency contain a number of visual resources and a more even specific information. Aside from incredible visual resources, NASA’s official website contains some great education resources, many of which are printable.  If you want your learners to know about the Russian space news ROSCOSMOS website offers information to expand the knowledge gained during our presenter-led mobile planetarium sessions.

Useful Space Websites Before or After Mobile Planetarium Sessions


NASA in mobile planetarium -The official NASA website – European Space Agency – BBC science of space

Roscosmos in Mobile Planetarium Physics space topic – BBC KS2 Space education resources – BBC KS1 Earth and Space resources – UK Space Agency – Tim Peaks Journey to the ISS – Videos and games about the solar system – Up to date news on astronomy – Great site on space exploration

ESA Mobile planetarium – ROSCOSMOS is a Russian Space State Corporation – Full information guide to astronomy

space-facts.comSpace facts out of this world

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