Out-Of-This-World Teaching Strategies

Developed by Christopher Altrogge, Jessica Engele, Maria Jeanneau, Nicole Tremblay and Silke Svenkeson

This page is a resource designed for teachers who are looking for fun and easy ways to present the science of astronomy and the solar system to students.

Kids may think that science is a definite thing but it is not. Just because the textbook teaches something, does not mean that the “fact” cannot be tested. Things can be believed as a fact for a long time and exist in textbooks for decades or centuries, but a single experiment can blow these theories right out of the water! Students should not feel limited by what they are taught in the textbook, they should feel free to look further and always search for a greater, deeper, or newer understanding of the world and universe around us. There will never be a day that we fully understand everything or invent everything; there is always something new to be discovered!

In Class

Astronomical Acronyms

To remember the planets and their order from the sun, just remember the following acrostic:

            My Very Elderly Mom Just Showed Us Nintendo

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

To remember the 5 known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt, use the “C-H-E-M-P” acronym.







Copyright 2016 Christopher Altrogge

Copyright 2016 Christopher Altrogge

A visual timeline, “Pluto Through Time,” is provided for teachers, in order to visualize a portion of their lesson, and to ensure that there is a section of their lesson devoted to visual learners. Visual learners retain content best when it is presented through images and other means of visualizing information, such as timelines; however, all students should be encouraged to examine the timeline.


“Name that Planet!”: Instruct students to research 3-4 characteristics of a planet and get other students to guess that planet.


Mini-poster presentation: Get students to research a planet, dwarf planet, or any astronomical object such as the moon, sun, asteroids, or comets. Then, get them to present their topic to the class and add all the 8×11½ posters into a booklet. Now your class will have its own guideline to understanding the universe!

Discussion Topics

Q: Why do people study space? How do our discoveries that are ‘out of this world’ pertain to us right now?

Q: Why is it important to study things that aren’t in our solar system?

Q: How does knowledge about the formation of our solar system help us today? How do Pluto and the Kuiper Belt contribute to this knowledge?

Q: For many years, Pluto was believed to be a planet and the Kuiper Belt was completely unknown to us. Is science definite? Can we ever fully understand our solar system? How can we prevent errors in our discoveries? Explain why it is important for scientists to be constantly testing the knowledge we already have.

Q: Earth is the only planet in our solar system that can support life. The further we explore, the more we learn about space. Do you think there is another planet in space that could support life? Do you think it was just chance that the Earth has developed such an advanced from of life? Do you think there is life out there as evolved as ours? Will we ever know for sure or be able to contact them?

Videos for the Classroom

  • This video focuses on our place in the solar system, reviews the 8 planets and their locations, and mentions Pluto being a dwarf planet. Aimed for kids under Grade 3.

  • This video is an episode of the Magic School Bus. It explains our solar system and the planets for children in an entertaining way. This was made before Pluto was classified as a dwarf planet and the rise of the Kuiper Belt. However, with the information on this page, you will be able to explain this information on the side. (Français)

  • This site contains several videos about astronomy in general, aimed for high school students or middle school students. A great supplement to a lesson plan!
  • This video focuses on the Kuiper Belt and it is geared towards high school age students.

  • This is a series of videos called “Pluto in a Minute”. These videos explain many more interesting facts about Pluto in just a minute.

Useful Links

  • A kid-friendly website describing Pluto, the Kuiper Belt, and all the planets in our solar system – Great for elementary aged students.
  • This site is developed for teachers and contains great resources on astronomy as a whole, including additional activities, workshops and information on astronomy and space. There are specific pages on the site dedicated to dwarf planets and to Pluto!
  • This is a wonderful resource for kids to explore the universe and learn a bit about astronomy.
  • For high school or middle school students, this site explains many fascinating facts about Pluto and the newest discoveries from the New Horizon’s mission.
  • Again for older students, this site offers great information about various astronomical topics.


Field trip to the University of Saskatchewan Observatory

Hours: (Saturdays)

From October to February: 7:30 – 9:30 PM

March and September: 8:30 – 10:30 PM

April and August: 9:30 – 11:30 PM

May to July: 10:00 – 11:30 PM

Free admission. Tours can be arranged for school and community groups on Friday evenings during the school year. You can book a tour by phoning (306) 966-6396 and get more information here!

Camping trip out in the country

Plan a trip to a campground or farm out of the city and gaze at the stars! Follow this link to discover interesting and up-to-date objects in the night sky:

Have a camp fire and tell astrological legends like how the constellations got their names and the stories behind them.

  • This site includes current astronomical events, when and how to observe these events, and some great information for beginner astronomers. A current newsfeed also is included which offers information on the most current developments in the field of astronomy
  • This site is designed for teachers and includes many different resources, one of which involves the legends and tales behind some popular constellations!

Other Outings

  • Watch for Activities presented by The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Saskatoon Centre for public presentations and additional observing opportunities (good for older kids)
  • Check out the S.P.A.C.E (Saskatoon Public AerospaCe Education) Club! They offer hands-on activities for grades 5-8 in a creative workshop environment!

Check out Engineering For Kids, they offer an AeroSpace program in the form of camps and classes. Kids from K-8 will learn in a hands-on and creative atmosphere about what is beyond our atmosphere!