Planet Research Paper Rubric

Getting Started:
First, get to know about your planet. Read as much information about the planet as you can find. Try both the Internet and the library; try the NASA web site, Zoom Astronomy, Nine Planets, a good search engine, an encyclopedia, and individual books on astronomy and the Solar System.

As you're reading about your planet, take notes on key information, such as your planet's size, temperature range, its position in the Solar System, moons, atmosphere, any unusual features, when it was discovered, etc. A graphic organizer can be useful for this.

The Structure of the Planet Report:
Start your report with an introductory paragraph that states the main ideas that you will be writing about. Then write at least four to five paragraphs that clearly describe your planet. Each paragraph should cover one topic (for example, you should have one paragraph that covers the planet's location in the Solar System, how far it is from the Sun, and how long its year is). End the report with a closing paragraph that summarizes what you wrote and learned.

Finally, cite your references (see the section below on formats for your bibliography).

Check that your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. Make sure to use complete sentences and write neatly! Define any technical terms that you use. Proofread your report for errors before you hand it in -- do not hand in a rough draft.

Topics to Research and Include in Your Report:
When you write your report, try to answer as many of the following questions as you can:

  • The Planet's Name: What does its name mean? Many planets were named after mythological gods.
  • Position in the Solar System: Where is your planet located (for example, Mars in the fourth planet from the Sun)? How far from the Sun does it orbit. Is its orbit unusual?
  • Rotation on its Axis: How long does it take for your planet to rotate on its own axis? (This is one day on your planet.)
  • Size: How big is your planet? How does it rate in terms of the other planets in terms of size (is it the biggest, the smallest)? What is your planet's mass?
  • Gravity: What is the force of gravity at the surface of your planet? For example, what would a 100-pound person weigh on that planet?
  • Orbit: How long does it take for your planet to orbit the Sun? (This is one year on your planet.)
  • Atmosphere: What is the composition of the atmosphere of your planet? Is it a thick or a thin atmosphere?
  • Temperature: What is the temperature range your planet? How does this compare to the temperature on Earth?
  • Composition of Your Planet and its Appearance: What type of planet is it (is it rocky or a gas giant)? What is its internal composition? What does your planet look like?
  • Moons: If there are moons orbiting your planet, describe them and when they were discovered.
  • Rings: If there are rings orbiting your planet, describe them and when they were discovered.
  • How Would a Human Being Fare on Your Planet: On your planet, would a person choke in the atmosphere, be squashed by the extreme gravity, float with ease, freeze, burn up, or something else?
  • Something Special: Is there anything special about your planet? This can often be the best part of the report, taking you off on interesting topics. For example, are there 100-year-long storms on your planet? Are there giant volcanos? Does your planet have a very tilted axis (giving it extreme seasons)? Have spacecraft visited your planet? If so, what have they discovered? Is your planet in an orbital resonance with another body?
  • Discovery of Your Planet: The planets that are not visible using the naked eye were discovered after the invention of the telescope (these are Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto). Tell when your planet was discovered and by whom.

Citing Your References: When you write your bibliography, list all of your references. Formats for each type of publication follows (there are different formats for different media):
  • Web Site: Author(s) if appropriate. Title of Site or web page. URL of site, date of publication (the earliest copyright year listed).
  • Book: Author(s). Title of book. Edition. Location of publisher: Name of Publisher, year of publication.
  • Encyclopedia:Title of encyclopedia, volume of encyclopedia used. Location of publisher: Name of Publisher, year of publication, pages where the article is located.
  • Magazine or Journal: Author(s). "Title of article." Name of magazine, Volume.issue (date): pages where the article is located.
Author(s) are listed last name first, first name or initials (as cited in the publication).

For example: would be cited as follows:

Col, Jeananda. 1999.

For more on EnchantedLearning's bibliography and author, click here.

Another format for Internet sources is as follows:

Last name, First name of author. Title of Page. Name of the publisher ( in our case). Date the page was created (at Enchanted Learning, this is the earliest date on the copyright notice located at the bottom of each page), Date of revision (at Enchanted Learning, we do not keep track of page revisions).

Some teachers also request that you include the date of access; this is the date (or dates) that you went to the web page (or pages).

The Following is a Rubric For Assessing each Part of Your Research Report:

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Travel Agent

Teacher Section

Objective: To research a planet in our solar system and design a travel brochure to get future travelers to visit that planet.

Grade Level: 5-8
Subject(s): Science, Technology, Language Arts, Art
Prep Time: < 10 minutes
Duration: Overnight/Extended
Materials Category: Special

National Education Standards
Earth and Space Science
        Structure of the Earth system

Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity and promote creativity.
Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications and produce other creative works.
Students use technology to locate, evaluate and collect information from a variety of sources.
  • Computers with Internet access
  • Construction paper
  • Crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.
  • Scissors
  • Glue and/or tape
  • Student Page
Pre-lesson Instructions
  • Have students work in groups of two to four to complete the brochure assignment. There will be 10 groups in all, one group per planet and one group assigned to Earth's Moon.
  • Reserve time in your school's library and computer lab to allow students to complete the necessary research for this project.
Background Information

Many science fiction stories involve everyday people traveling in space. Right now, that privilege is reserved for trained astronauts and robotic devices. And for now, most of that exploration, at least the human component of it, is occurring only in low Earth orbit. That will be changing soon.

In January 2004, the President of the United States announced that America would send people back to the Moon and then on to Mars and farther out into the solar system. This exploration will occur in the next few decades. Before long, some of the things that we see today as being science fiction will be happening as science fact.

To help prepare future explorers to other planets, your class will be creating travel brochures to lure adventurous travelers to other planets in our solar system.

  1. Explain that the class will work in groups to create travel brochures for different planets in our solar system. This will include all nine planets and Earth's Moon. (Explain that Earth is included because as we begin to explore and live on other planets, settlers on those planets will not consider Earth as their home. They can visit Earth as a vacation.)

  2. Place the students into 10 groups. Assign each group a planet (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). Assign the remaining group Earth's Moon.

  3. Distribute the Student Pages and go over the procedure as a class. You may also want to go over the grading rubric with the students so they are aware of what is expected of them on this project.

  4. Allow one to two class periods for research on the Internet and in the library. Then allow one to two class periods for the students to design and assemble their travel brochures. One day will be needed for the students to present their brochure to the class.
  • Have students share their brochures with the class. If desired, grade the brochures using the rubric that is provided.
  • Discuss the differences in the destinations. Talk about the real possibilities of traveling to these planets in the future.
  • Show the class examples of travel posters and have them design such a poster with their destinations in mind.
  • Have students design a building or colony that could be used on their destinations. Account for any differences in temperatures, gravity, etc.

Planet Brochure Rubric

The title can be read clearly and is creative.The title can be read clearly and describes the content well.The title can be read clearly but is not creative.The title is too small and/or does not describe the content of the project well.
At least seven accurate facts are displayed on the brochure.Five or six accurate facts are displayed on the brochure.Three or four accurate facts are displayed on the brochure.Fewer than three accurate facts are displayed on the brochure.
All of the graphics used on the project reflect an exceptional degree of student creativity in the creation and display.One or two of the graphics used on the brochure reflect student creativity in the creation and display.The graphics are made by the student, but are based on the designs or ideas of others.No graphics made by the student are included.
The brochure is exceptionally attractive in terms of design, layout and neatness.The brochure is attractive in terms of design, layout and neatness.The brochure is acceptably attractive though it may be a bit messy.The brochure is distractingly messy or very poorly designed. It is not attractive.
There are no grammatical mistakes on the brochure.There is one grammatical mistake on the brochure.There are two grammatical mistakes on the brochure.There are more than two grammatical mistakes on the brochure.

Total points out of a possible 20 points: ________________________________

Travel Agent Student Page

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