Solar System Collage

Author: Katie Cook-Zamora
Year: 2009
Artform: Visual Art
Subjects: Language Arts & Science
Grade: 6th Grade

The sixth grade students will learn about the solar system, including the sizes of the planets compared to each other, their placement in space, their color and texture etc. They will learn how to create textured paper to use to make a collage of the planets and the sun and moon.


  • Lined paper
  • Pencils
  • 3 Cans of white foam shaving cream
  • Plastic knives,
  • 6 or 7 cookie sheet trays
  • Paper towels
  • Various colors of food coloring or liquid watercolor paint
  • Toothpicks
  • White drawing paper 9×12
  • 12×18 black construction paper
  • White tempera paint
  • Bristly paintbrushes or old toothbrushes
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Black oil pastels
  • Circle templates to trace
  • Newspaper


Book Resource

Download PDF Lesson Plan

Standards & Objectives

Fine Art Standards
Integrated Standards

The students use the characteristics of line to create artworks. The students use geometric shapes and forms in artworks. The students use the strategy of blocking-in to get correct proportion and placement of subject matter. The students create depth by overlapping shapes. The students create the illusion of 3-D form by using shading techniques.


Students will apply strategies to comprehend text. The students will cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly, as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Students will understand the relationship and attributes of objects in the solar system.

The objective of this lesson is to teach the students how to create a collage of the solar system which depicts the textures of the planets as seen in space. It also teaches them to create the illusion of depth in their work on a flat surface through shading.

Teaching and Timeline


Begin this lesson by showing the students an example of the finished planet collage. This always gets them excited about the process because the end product is so amazing.

Then, separate students into groups of 3 or 4 and assign each group a planet. Copy a page for each group from the book Solar System by Melvin and Gilda Berger that covers their assigned planet. Have each group read the information and write down the most important facts about the planet.

Have each group join another group and share what they have learned. The groups could then rotate until they have had a chance to hear about each of the planets.


Next, model for the students how to create the marbled paper for their planet collage. Gather the students around a table that has been covered with newspaper and set up with 6 or 8 cookie sheet trays covered with white foam shaving cream (no gel) and smoothed with a plastic knife or tongue depressor.

Have pictures of the planets displayed where the students can see them to help out with which colors to choose for the marbling. Show students how to drip food coloring or liquid watercolor all over the shaving cream. They can use multiple colors, like green and blue for Earth, and brown, orange and yellow for Jupiter. After dripping the colors, they will swirl them around with a toothpick.

Several students can work at one tray. Each student should print multiple papers with different colors, so they will need to rotate and take turns. Make sure there are enough trays to create all the planet colors. Some trays could be split in half, with 2 or three colors on one side, and then 2 or 3 different colors on the other.

To print their paper, they just need to gently lay it over the top of the shaving cream, and softly rub it until all of the paper comes in contact with the shaving cream. Then they will grab one corner and pull it up as fast as they can. The excess shaving cream can be wiped off with a paper towel. (Monitor the shaving cream marbling process carefully so as to minimize mess.)

Work Period

When the marbled paper is finished, the students will need to create a background of stars on a black paper for their planets. To do this they will need to use a bristly paintbrush or an old toothbrush and some white tempera paint.

The background paper will be a 12×18” piece of black construction paper. They will need to dip the paintbrush or toothbrush in the white paint, hold it above the black paper and hold their other hand in front of it. With their thumb, they will brush across the bristles and let the white paint sprinkle the black paper. They will cover the paper with the white sprinkles.

Then provide students with round things to trace of various sizes for their planets. You can use plastic cups, glue stick lids, Tupperware lids, etc. They will need to select the colors they want for the planets they wish to display. The sun is their source of light, so it will be included in the collage and they will need to know the size relationships of the planets they choose compared to the sun, as well as the planet’s distance from the sun.

On the bottom of their paper they will be creating the surface of one of the planets from close-up, so they need to know the placement of everything in relationship to the sun. When they have traced the planets that they wish to display in their collage and the sun, they can cut them out. To create the surface of one of the planets, the students will draw and cut out various shapes that correspond with their knowledge of how the planet’s surface looks.


When all of their pieces are cut out, they will lay everything out on their black background paper and begin gluing with a glue stick. When everything is glued into place, they will finish by adding shadows to the planets in order to create the illusion of 3-dimensions. The shadows can be made in a crescent shape on the side of the planet opposite the light source, which in this case is the sun. They will use a black oil pastel for this process.


This lesson is integrated with language arts and science, teaching the students about the solar system and how it works through literature.

  • How many planets are in the solar system?
  • What color/size are the planets?
  • What is the order of the planets?
  • How do you create the illusion of 3-dimensions with shading?

This lesson is differentiated through the use of strong visuals, modeling of processes, use of technology, movement to describe a process and varied art techniques to keep the students engaged.

  • Planets – any of the eight large heavenly bodies revolving around the sun and shining by reflected light
  • Value – the lightness or darkness of a color
  • Solar System – the sun together with all the planets and other bodies that revolve around it.
  • Orbit – the curved path, usually elliptical, described by a planet, satellite, spaceship, etc., around a celestial body, as the sun.

The finished collages should be displayed in the school, and you may want to have the students hold an informal critique, talk about their process and tell which of the planets they decided to include in their collage.

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