Learning Plans & Activities
Exploring Maps of the Solar System with Primary Sources

In this lesson, students use an understanding of maps to analyze an outdated model of the solar system and determine inaccuracies. This lesson is meant to be done after students have interacted with other types of maps.


Social studies




Classroom teacher


Students will recount features of a map.

Students will identify features of a map in a map of the solar system.

Students will analyze that map to look for elements that are unusual, unexpected, or expected but not present in the map.



25-35 minutes


AASL National School Library Standards

V.C.1 Expressing curiosity about a topic of personal interest or curricular relevance.

VI.A.3 Evaluating information for accuracy, validity, social and cultural context, and appropriateness for need.

Next Generation Science Standards

E-SS1-1. Support an argument with evidence, data, or a model.

C3 Framework Standards

D2.Geo.2.K-2. Use maps, graphs, photographs, and other representations to describe places and the relationships and interactions that shape them.

Instructional Procedure

Begin the lesson by asking students what features they have seen on maps. Remind them of different maps they have seen recently. Tell students that they will look at a map today that is new in two ways, that it is very old and that it is of a place that they may have not seen a map of before, the solar system.

Share the image from M. Blundeuile His Exercises. If possible, project the image digitally and give print images to students to look at on their own. Review the list of map features students created. Give students thirty seconds to silently look at the image. Ask them to share any features that may tell them that what they are looking at is a map. Label or list features that students share.

Students will attempt to read labels and descriptions on the maps of the solar system. Work as a whole class to decipher text in the image. Focus on text that students are interested in, ignoring text that they ignore.

If no students have pointed out the inaccuracies in the map, tell students that people who make maps use the information they believe is correct, but maps can have mistakes. Ask the students to look at the map again, this time looking for anything that they think is unusual or unexpected. Encourage student discussion listing findings of students.

End the discussion asking students to share why this older map might be inaccurate and what they may want to ask the person who created the map.


The inaccuracies in this map may lead some students to be interested in modern depictions of the solar system. These may be used during the primary source analysis to compare and contrast with the model in the primary source image. They could also be used after the analysis as an extension of the map study.


Students can work individually or in pairs to create their own map of the solar system using map features discussed at the end of class and information gathered from the book listed in additional resources.

Additional Resources

Any books about the solar system for striving and emerging readers. Two possibilities are:

Carney, Elizabeth. Planets. National Geographic Society, 2012.

Walsh, Kenneth. The Solar System. Teacher Created Materials, 2012.

About the Author

Tom Bober is a school librarian, 2018 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, former Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, and author of the book Elementary Educator's Guide to Primary Sources: Strategies for Teaching. He is a Digital Public Library of America Community Rep, a member of the Teachers Advisory Board for the National Portrait Gallery, and a co-chair of the Education Advisory Committee of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. Tom writes about student learning on AASL's Knowledge Quest blog and publications such as School Library Connection and American Libraries and has given workshops and spoken across the country. His foundation is built on over twenty years in public education, with six years as an elementary classroom teacher, seven years as a building and district instructional technology specialist, and over eight years in school libraries. Find him at https://tombober.com/ and on Twitter @CaptainLibrary.

MLA Citation Bober, Tom. "Exploring Maps of the Solar System with Primary Sources." School Library Connection, January 2010, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2186237.

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Entry ID: 2186237

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