Teaching the solar system has always held a unique set of challenges. How do you explain orbits and gravity on such a cosmic scale? How can you capture the immensity of Jupiter—which is 11 times the size of earth—without confounding students? How do you explain the formation of the Earth and the Moon alongside the gas giants in the outer solar system?
Textbooks, videos, and images allow students to develop an understanding of our cosmos piece by piece. But there’s an entirely new way to explore the solar system that’s captivating the classroom.
At first glance, AstroReality’s Solar System Model is a collection of detailed 3D printed planets. From the milky swirls of Jupiter’s storms to the hazy orange surface of Mars, each model was created using data and images from NASA. The models provide an intricate and accessible 3D representation of our solar system.
Download the AstroReality app, however, and you unlock the potential of each model. A quick scan reveals a detailed augmented reality (AR) experience. Students can zoom into Venus, explore the history of Earth in an interactive timeline, or ask Gaia questions regarding the solar system.
Augmented reality entered mainstream culture a few years back. Even if you’ve never used it yourself, chances are you’ve heard of Pokémon Go—the hit smartphone app that challenges users to collect monsters that are projected over the real world using AR.
Most new technology finds success in the entertainment industry before being adopted by educators. By combining interactive learning with visual stimulation, augmented reality is finding success in today’s classrooms. AR learning provides a new way to explore dense subject matter, such as anatomy, chemistry, and astronomy, in a way many students can more readily grasp.
The educational impact is real. AR creates an interactive learning environment that many students thrive in. It enhances a lesson plan, acting as a refreshing break from videos and lectures. It drives interactivity and engagement in the classroom. Plus, text alone often isn’t enough to fully understand a specific subject. In fact, research shows students retain and recall more information through visual aids.
The solar system is an inexhaustible source of teaching material. But why should students learn about it?
Many educators argue that learning about space benefits life on Earth. By looking beyond our little blue dot, we gain an appreciation for the apparent rarity of life in the universe, the limit of natural resources, and the runaway effects of global warming. Students learn how Earth’s oceans gave rise to life and the subsequent importance of looking after our oceans and atmosphere.
Mercury teaches time and orbit—a single Mercurian day takes 176 Earth days. Venus provides a lesson that revolves around greenhouse gases, while Jupiter’s big red spot is an excellent topic for introducing storms and weather patterns. The winds of Neptune are nine times stronger than Earth’s, and Pluto can prompt discussions about what constitutes a planet.
Here are just a few reasons why an augmented solar system is a powerful learning device.
Most children are adept at using a smartphone or tablet, and many children are familiar with augmented reality. Rather than stifling curiosity with an outdated science textbook, students can learn the latest science regarding each planet with the tap of a finger.
Learning about the solar system cultivates interest, which in turn leads to any number of exciting learning scenarios. All it takes is one lesson on the cosmos to spark the next Stephen Hawking or Neil deGrasse Tyson. Using augmented reality, students can turn their curiosity into an (augmented) reality. Students can ask any number of questions and receive immediate answers from Gaia, the app’s Artificial Intelligence.
Designed with teachers and students in mind, AstroReality makes learning about the solar system more accessible than ever before. Rather than spending hours sourcing images and gathering knowledge for each solar system lesson plan, teachers have quick access to stunning visuals, such as the cross-sectional model of Earth. While students have access to a library of knowledge allowing them to research science projects or complete homework independently.
A scale model of the solar system for teachers offers a unique way to apply different disciplines into one lesson. Combine math and science by measuring cosmic distances, or use the solar system model in an English class to generate topics or inspire poetry. Introduce the Apollo program in a history class by taking a trip to the moon, or argue the merits of a spacefaring future in debate class. The options are endless.
Last but not least, a classroom that integrates augmented reality prepares students for a future that will likely utilize AR, VR and other technologies in and outside the classroom. Whether they’re consuming or building the next generation of augmented applications, students can benefit from exposure to AR in school.
As Stephen Hawking said, “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
Build your next lesson plan around an augmented reality solar system. Introduce each planet individually, or have your students go on a “field trip” through the stars as they walk around each planet and discover the solar system at their own pace.