Magic School Bus Gets Lost In Space – Solar System Science Lessons for Elementary Students

Planet Earth, from Space.

What makes for a good astronomy lesson? If you plan-et.

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Let’s get ready to learn some facts that are out of this world – literally. Today’s topic is on the Solar System, the many planets, moons, and asteroids that orbit the Sun. Strap on, buckle your seatbelts, the bus is going to take us on a ride with our favorite science teacher, Mrs. Frizzle.

Below are discussion questions ready for a Space/Solar System Unit Study. These questions are based around the first of its kind book, The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space by Joanna Cole, part of the Magic School Bus book series. This book is the book that launched a thousand adventures.

Every question listed below in the discussion can be answered by this detailed, accessible science book filled with cartoons! The guide is designed that an upper elementary student can follow along and answer these non-fiction text by themselves, or so that young students in preschool and elementary can answer questions orally after hearing each page read aloud to them.

I really recommend checking this book The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space out in the library or getting yourself a copy if you want to follow along. Note: Since the book was published in 1992, there has been a lot of discoveries of moons. The book is still rich in information about each planet (and our favorite dwarf planet). The story of journeying to each planet on a class field trip is still worth the read. Just don’t trust the moons info to be accurate. Our technology has advanced, and little dwarf planet Pluto (you might remember it having a moon that it co-revolves around, it now has five moons.) While that seems like we need to head back to school, it doesn’t affect the overall message of the book, since the book visits the Moon, the Sun, the asteroid belt, and all eight/nine planets.

The “The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space” book is a perfect pair-along text with either the first-ever Magic School Bus episode, “The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space”, or the new Netflix special called “The Magic School Bus Rides Again: Kids in Space” which pays homage to the original space voyage of Mrs. Frizzle and class while also giving more up-to-date information.

Both episodes, from Magic School Bus and Magic School Bus Rides Again, are currently available on Netflix.

Click here if you want to jump ahead to Youtube videos about the solar system.

Discussion Questions:

What is the Solar System?

What does everything in the solar system spin around?

An orbit is ____________________________________

(It’s the path you take when spinning ‘in circles’)

What makes day and night?

When a planet or moon spins around itself, we say it _____________________.

How long does the Earth take to rotate?

A planetarium is a theater, usually rounded, that plays movies and shows about astronomy.

What is the atmosphere?

What keeps us and everything else stuck on Earth, while spaceships can blast into outer space?

What is gravity?

Do larger objects (objects with more mass) have more gravity or less gravity?

How much weight do people have when in outer space?

What shape is the Earth?

What are the “holes” or bowls on the Moon’s surface called?

What caused craters to form on the Moon’s surface?

What are meteorites?

If someone weights 85 lb (85 pounds) on Earth, how much will they weigh on the Moon?

Would that make it easier to move around, if you suddenly weighed less?

What makes the moon light we see from Earth?

What object or objects does the Moon travel around?

The Sun

What is the Sun?

Can we see any stars during the day?

How many Earths could fit inside the Sun?

What are solar flares?

What are sun spots?

What can you find looking at the surface of the sun?

How hot is the Sun?

Inner Planets

Which planet is closest to the Sun?

If someone weighed 85 lbs, how much would they weigh on Mercury?

What is the water and air like on the planet Mercury?

What does the sun look like if standing on Mercury?

What color are the clouds on Earth? What are Earth clouds made of?

What color are the clouds on Venus? What are Venus clouds made of?

How hot is it on the surface of Venus?

What gas on Venus acts like a blanket trapping heat?

What do we call this effect where the air or atmosphere makes the planet even hotter?

Does it rain on Venus? Why or why not?

How many moons does Mars have?

How wide is the moon Deimos?

How wide is the moon Phobos?

Is there water on Mars?

Where can you find frozen water on Mars?

The volcano on Mars is _____ times taller than the tallest Earth volcano.

How many inner planets are there?

List them: _________ ___________ _________ _________

Asteroid Belt

What is the asteroid belt?

What are asteroids?

How big can asteroids get?

Outer Planets

What is the largest planet in the solar system?

How many moons does Jupiter have?

Is Jupiter made up of rocks? Or gases?

How many Earths could fit in Jupiter’s size?

What is the Great Red Spot?

If you weighed 85 lbs on Earth, how much would you weigh on Jupiter?

What are Saturn’s rings made of?

How many rings does Saturn have?

If you weighed 85 lbs (pounds) on Earth, how much would you weigh on Saturn?

What makes Uranus’s rotation different than other planets?

Where might you see graphite in home or in your school?

Where would you see graphite in the solar system?

Which gas gives Uranus its blue color?

How long does it take Uranus to complete a year (a full rotation around the Sun)?

How long does it take Neptune to complete its year (a full rotation around the Sun)?

Earth’s Favorite Dwarf Planet: Pluto

Note: this book may describe Pluto as the ninth planet. It has been reclassified as a dwarf planet due to its small size and co-rotation around its moon.

Which is farther away – Neptune or Pluto? Is that always true?

What is the moon of Pluto called?

If you weighed 85 lbs on Earth, how much would you weigh on Pluto?

How many stars are there outside of our solar system?

Connection Questions: [after finishing the text]

Using the internet or up-to-date resources, fill out this chart.

Planet (or Dwarf)Gas Planet orRock PlanetHow long is a day?How long is a year?Distance from the SunNumber of MoonsDoes it Have Rings?
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, and should be located between Mars and Jupiter.

What changed between when the book was published in 1992 to today? How many moons have been discovered? How many dwarf planets have been found?

Can you show the difference between rotation and revolution with your body? Which one is spinning yourself in a circle, and which one is going around something/someone else in a circle?

Look up a dwarf planet and educate others about it. Remember, they didn’t learn about dwarf planets when they were in school! So you’ll be telling them something new.

What is the asteroid belt? Look up the Kuiper Belt too. How are they similar, how are they different? Which one is bigger?

How many moons have we found on planets in our solar system?

Do all planets have a moon?

In your opinion, which moon is the coolest? Some suggestions: Europa, Io, Titan, the Moon.

Wow, that’s a lot of information about the 8 planets, 5 dwarf planets, and the over 200 moons in the solar system (and counting!). These discussion questions can be asked and answered orally, or written down. They can be used as trivia questions. They can be a jumping off place for researching more (and jumping is easier in gravity, there’s less weight). Questions might want to be split over several read-throughs, so that the first reading lets the student make an initial impression – learning the basic names of the planets – and then later readthroughs have the student discussing gases of Venus, moons of Jupiter, orbits of Uranus, and discussing the many advances that we have made since book publication. (The child correcting the book!)

Again, the answers for this discussion book can be found in “Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space” by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen. It is a really rich resource for young readers – I feel like I was reading solar system rocket fuel as I flipped through this book which was told through comics on each page.

This would go great with an Solar System unit study, or a study of astronauts, NASA, or female contributors to NASA like Katherine Johnson. Would also be a great read as we prepare to do the first mission to Mars.

Best Solar System Videos for Elementary Students

The Planets song for any Hamilton musical fans

This 4 minute song is done like it’s a Broadway musical opening song. The lyrics are very easy to understand. Lots of chemistry information, too.

Storybots – We Are The Planets song

This song is from Story Bots (a show on Netflix). They have each planet doing their own rap styling, Instead of watching this 2 minute video, you might watch the entire 23 minute Story Bots episode on Netflix for an in-depth exploration of the solar system.

Solar System Planets Song

This song seems pretty similar to the other one, but it’s a different song aesthetic. Students can compare. This one discusses the dwarf planets – you get to meet 5 of them in the song.

Our Solar System – 12 minutes

This video is much more informational and has real-world footage of Earth, as well as realistic representations of the planets. This video does an excellent job discussing the Sun.

Best for the Preschool Crowd, and those who want subtitles

This video is 4 minutes long. It focuses on teaching the names of all eight planets. This video is the clearest to understand of all the videos, although it stays with a fact or two per planet to keep things basic. It has the catchiest tune of all the planet songs.

Dwarf Planets song – Proper Justice for Pluto – 3 minutes

With this song, you won’t be sad we lot Pluto. Instead, you’ll be happy we gained some more friends. This book discusses the 5 dwarf planets: Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, Eris, and Pluto. It goes into depth on their rotation (day lengths) and their revolutions – how long they take to orbit the Sun.


Sun song 3 minutes

With this song, you won’t be sad we lot Pluto. Instead, you’ll be happy we gained some more friends. This book discusses the 5 dwarf planets: Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, Eris, and Pluto. It goes into depth on their rotation (day lengths) and their revolutions – how long they take to orbit the Sun.

If you made it this far, to the edge of the Solar System and back, thank you for spending this time with me learning about our place on Earth and our planetary neighbors. Also, don’t forget to join us on more science adventures by subscribing with your email address.

Final Question

Which planet is your favorite? Which moon would you like to visit?

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