Fourth Graders Explore the Solar System

Sleeves up and hands-on, Mount Madonna School (MMS) students “spaced out” recently as part of a learning-filled solar system science project that included creating small planet and moon models using recycled paper and nontoxic, flour-based papier-mâché.

Each student was assigned one planet or moon to research, and then create a slide show presentation to share with their classmates. Using their finished models as props, students also enacted the motions of the solar system – and had some real fun orbiting one another!

“Did you know that Venus has 90 times the atmospheric pressure of Earth?” commented student Bishop Avila-Nores. “That’s equivalent to the amount of pressure at the bottom of the Mariana Trench!”

“Mercury’s biggest crater could fit all of Northern Europe,” shared classmate Amelie Thams.

MMS fourth grade students engage with a balanced, depth-filled curriculum across the subjects. During the same time frame that they were learning about space, students’ lessons included adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions and decimals in math; understanding prepositional phrases; a book report on “Shiloh” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and finishing “broken glass” narrative stories for language arts; continuing their learning about human body systems in health, with a focus on the human respiratory system; and early California history and the Spanish arrival for social studies.

“I love this science project!” commented teacher Nick Cabassa. “As a real space nerd, I can never learn too much about space. Doing this project throughout the years, I’ve learned a lot from my students, too. My hope is that it also inspires them to learn more about space.”

Cabassa’s enthusiasm clearly carries over to his students.

“I never knew about Europa until now! It’s such a mysterious moon,” said student River Brinton. “I hope that NASA continues to study it, so I can keep learning about it.”

“I learned that Earth has four layers,” added classmate Leyla Klosinski. “That’s so cool!”

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Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.