K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Related pages

  • Morehead Planetarium and Science Center: Located on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is a fascinating place to visit to learn more about astronomy.
  • Horizons Unlimited: This wonderful education center and museum provides hands-on programs for students in the areas of history and the physical and biological sciences.
  • KidSenses Children's InterACTIVE Museum: The interactive exhibits at this children’s museum spark the imagination and kids have fun as they play and learn.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Search for information online and learn to create a spreadsheet using a formula to calculate weights on each planet.
  • Learn what relative gravity is and how it varies with each planet. Further discussion will include what characteristics affect gravity.
  • Print their spreadsheets and a graph. If body weight is a sensitive issue, the students can research the average body weights of various animals or use any other object the teacher chooses, and use those in the same spreadsheet using the same formula.

This lesson also should reinforce spreadsheet terminology.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

60 minutes


  • access to information on the average weight of men and women
  • pencils and paper

Technology resources

  • computer and printer (preferably a computer lab)
  • Internet access
  • spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Works or Excel


The students should have a definition of gravity, relative gravity, mass, and weight. They may also find the average weights of men and women (or the weights of whatever they’re going to use in the lesson) in a prior class.


  1. The students will use any of the online resources in the sidebar to complete the Planet Facts worksheet.
  2. The students will start with a blank spreadsheet. Label the first column “Planet Name,” the second column “Relative Gravity,” the third column “Weight on Earth (lbs.),” and the fourth column “Weight on Planet (lbs.).”
  3. Have the students list the names of the eight planets in the first column and copy the relative gravity from the Planet Facts worksheet in the second.
  4. Explain the following: “Gravity is a universal, natural force that attracts objects to each other. Gravity is the pull toward the center of an object; let’s say, of a planet. When you weigh yourself, you are measuring the amount of gravitational attraction exerted on you by Earth. The other planets have a weaker or stronger gravitational attraction than Earth. In fact, Mercury’s gravity is only about 2/5 of Earth’s gravity. So, you would weigh less on Mercury. How could you determine what you would weigh on Mercury and on the other planets?”
  5. Allow students to discuss and hypothesize the solution.
  6. Have the students enter their own weight, the weight of the average man or woman, or any other object chosen in the third column.
  7. Assist the students in entering the formula in the “Weight on Planet (lbs.)” column. The formula should multiply the data in the cells under the second column “Relative Gravity” by the data in the cells under the third column “Weight on Earth (lbs.)”.
  8. As students type in the formulas, the “new” weights on the planets will be calculated.
  9. Once all formulas are in place, students can experiment with changing the data under “Weight on Earth (lbs.)” to see the new weights. They may also want to experiment with formatting the columns for alignment or for number of decimal places.
  10. Once the spreadsheet has calculated the weights on each planet, the students will graph the results and print them.


Grade the printed spreadsheet and graph.

Supplemental information


This lesson may be preceded by a lesson using the same information, without the weights and calculations, to create a planet database.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 6

        • Ratios & Proportional Relationships
          • 6.RPR.1Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities. For example, “The ratio of wings to beaks in the bird house at the zoo was 2:1, because for every 2 wings there was 1 beak.” “For...
          • 6.RPR.3Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems, e.g., by reasoning about tables of equivalent ratios, tape diagrams, double number line diagrams, or equations. Make tables of equivalent ratios relating quantities with whole-number...

    • North Carolina Essential Standards
      • Science (2010)
        • 6.E.1 Understand the earth/moon/sun system, and the properties, structures, and predictable motions of celestial bodies in the Universe. 6.E.1.1 Explain how the relative motion and relative position of the sun, Earth and moon affect the seasons, tides, phases...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Computer Technology Skills (2005)

Grade 6

  • Goal 1: The learner will understand important issues of a technology-based society and will exhibit ethical behavior in the use of computer and other technologies.
    • Objective 1.08: Recognize and discuss use of spreadsheets to calculate, graph, and present data in a variety of settings (e.g., schools, government, business, industry, mathematics, science). Strand - Spreadsheet
  • Goal 2: The learner will demonstrate knowledge and skills in the use of computer and other technologies.
    • Objective 2.03: Use spreadsheet terms/concepts and functions to calculate, represent, and explain content area findings. Strand - Spreadsheet
  • Goal 3: The learner will use a variety of technologies to access, analyze, interpret, synthesize, apply, and communicate information.
    • Objective 3.02: Plan and develop database reports to organize, explain, and display findings in content areas as class/group. Strand - Database
    • Objective 3.07: Modify/create spreadsheets to calculate and graph data to incorporate into content area projects (e.g., word processing, multimedia, webpages). Strand - Spreadsheet
    • Objective 3.08: Modify/create and use spreadsheets to solve problems, make decisions, support, and display findings in content areas projects. Strand - Spreadsheet

Science (2005)

Grade 6

  • Goal 5: The learner will build understanding of the Solar System.
    • Objective 5.02: Compare and contrast the Earth to other planets in terms of:
      • Size.
      • Composition.
      • Relative distance from the sun.
      • Ability to support life.