Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Planets, Homeschooling

Our Solar System, made from spokeshavings

So- our homeschooling of Fynn has evolved into a very dynamic and exciting style of follow th' leader. The "leader" being Fynn's interests. What ever he is interested in can be used as a tool to teach just about any topic. We of course had a summer break from official schooling, but kids never stop learning. Fynn's current passion is planets, our solar system, and stars larger than th' sun. He's been making model solars sytems and covering our back porch each day with drawings. We've learned so much about planets that we never knew before, it's been really exciting following him on this new venture. So here's some photos of planets and whatnot that he's made, as well as some interesting facts about space that we've learned through him.

 Fynn with Jupiter painted on his face, and a drawing of Jupiter, it was too big to fit on th' page. That black dot is a moons shadow. Jupiter also has a ring. I didn't know that. Jupiter is large enough to hold all the other planets combined. It has 64 known moons. It also spins so fast that it's not round, it bulges at th' equator creating something of an oval shaped planet. Jupiter is so large that it could contain all th' planets combined and still have room. It's gravitational pull is so great that it is actually drawing asteroids and debris from the asteroid belt between it and Mars towards it, which may account for why it has 64 known moons. 

 And here is Uranus, discovered in 1781. It's th' coldest planet in our solar system, even though it is not th' farthest from th' sun. It spins on an axis nearly perpendicular to the other planets.

Just after Uranus is Neptune, now considered th' last planet. Pluto, as Fynn says, has been delisted.
But Why? Well, Pluto belongs to a group of objects, known as Trans-Neptunian Objects, that orbit around the perimeter of our solar system. The group together is called the Kuiper (kyper) Belt, and holds an estimated 77,000 "planetoids" or large asteroids, as well as much dust and debris. The orbit of the Kuiper belt is on a diagonal plane compared to the orbit of the other planets, and at some points actually intersects with the orbit of Neptune. What that means is that for a while Pluto was actually closer to th' sun than Neptune. Pluto has a moon named Charon, but Charon doesn't really revolve around Pluto, they kinda revolve around each other, making some scientists consider them a binary planet. Pluto also has two smaller moons that orbit it.

Notice Saturn's large rings in th' picture below, but did you know that th' clouds around th' north pole of Saturn form a hexagon?

Fynn has also been playing with scale models of th' planets, which is great for imagining how far apart they really are. For example, if the earth were shrunk down to th' size of a basket ball, the moon would be th' size of a tennis ball- and can you guess how far away that tennis ball would be from that basket ball to be an acurate comparison of the earth and moon? 21 feet! Mars would be 83 feet away from that basketball Earth! We've had a lot of fun holding a basketball and having the other person walk th' required distance away with a scale model, it really helps to put those vast distances into perspective.

Here's a couple drawings of the planets in space, space being th' charcoal he takes from th' firepit.

The Universe is so large it boggles the mind. But is it really? The fact is that size is a comparison, and we can look infinitely large or infinitely small, so really we have no idea how big we are, or anything else for that matter.

The two extra planets seen in th' picture below are MakeMake and Eres, which is bigger than Pluto.

He'll even make square planets.

He's also very excited about stars larger than th' sun, as this video shows...

and last, but not least, is a solar system that Fynn drew at one of our farmer's market booths.

Well, hope you've had fun learning a little bit about our solar system and universe, there's so much more to know...