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Planets and Galaxy Project for Fifth Grade

Inspired by the Spheres in Space lesson over at Art Project for Kids, I adapted it to include a sparkly galaxy and cut-out planets. Planets provide a wonderful subject for teaching shading, texture and depth of space.

What you’ll need:

  • 12″ x 18″ white drawing/sulphite paper (planets)
  • Round plastic containers
  • pencils and scissors
  • Colored chalk pastel
  • 12″ x 18″ Black drawing/sulphite  paper
  • Glitter tempera paints (white included)

What to do:

For the planets: fold a 12″ x 18″ white paper in half. Using various sized round containers, trace 5-6 circles onto the sheet of paper (only half the sheet). Cut out circles and use remaining paper as a mat to protect the table.  Color and blend colored chalk onto circles, blending right off the edges. Using white chalk, color in one edge of the circle to create a highlight. Blend with fingers. Then, with black chalk, color the opposite side (working with the round edges) creating a shadow.

For the background: Splatter paint a 12″ x 18″ sheet of black paper (dip medium size paintbrush into watered-down liquid tempera paint). I like to offer glitter paint as well as white paint as options. Allow to dry then glue planets to galaxy.

Sixth grade planets…



  1. I love this project, but chalk is such a mess. I don’t mind mess, but the students get chalk all over! I am “art on a cart” so many of the classrooms don’t have access to water. Any suggestions for clean up and staying somewhat clean? 🙂


    March 29, 2009

    • Our parents at school donate hand sanitizer. So I line the kids up at the end of the class, each child holds both hands out, 1 spritz and they rub their hands. Use a paper towel to dry and clean. This works great for chalk pastels, oil pastels and is always a quick way at the end of a class.


      March 26, 2012

    • I just did this project with my fourth graders. I had them shake thier papers low to the ground so not to spread dust around and put a wet rag in the middle if the table so they could squish their fingers in it when they felt the urge to clean off their fingers. It was a great project!


      February 2, 2013

  2. Boy, I sure do know what you mean! The reason I use only half the paper for the planets is to use the other half as a desk cover. It helps contain the chalk and then the kids can pick up the paper and dump the chalk in the trash.
    Also, have the children hold up their pointer finger. Tell them that this is their art tool. Do not use entire hand!
    Oh yes, one more thing. Tap the excess chalk onto the floor. Don’t encourage blowing.
    Hope these tips help.

    Patty P

    March 29, 2009

  3. Try this (and other sky-included projects) on glitter-embeded construction paper.


    June 18, 2009

  4. I love to work with chalk pastels, I have "hand wipes" on my supplies list for the kids, and cut them in half. One half for hands, one half for their table. Can't wait to try this project next week!

    Lindsay and Willis

    September 18, 2009

  5. Wow, this is a great blog with exceptionally good art ideas. Thank you!
    ~ from MaryAnn Kohl,
    author of lotsa art books

    newest: "Great American Artists for Kids"

    Visit my website for free art ideas from all of my books.

    Bright Ring

    November 7, 2009

  6. I tried the first part of this lesson today and it went well. One suggestion for anyone concerned about the mess is to have the children trace the circles with Sharpie, and color BEFORE cutting the circles. This way there is no need for a mat, and the children can see the outline of the circle because of the Sharpie. Thanks Pattie for this lesson!

    Nicole R.

    December 6, 2010

  7. I use 12″x 18″ “work paper” for projects such as chalk (and also painting projects where they need to
    paint the entire 9″x12″ paper, we can use these several times and they really help with clean up, I usually just use old faded construction paper for this.

    Charlene Cloutier

    December 27, 2010

  8. And about learning the plants, I always think of 1.) My – Mercury,
    2)Very – Venus, 3) Educated – Earth, 4) Mother – Mars, 5) Just – Jupiter, 6) Served – Saturn,
    7) Us – Uranus, 8) Nine – Neptune, 9) Pies – Pluto.
    Thank you, and may God bless you all.
    Great web site.

    Debra Camp

    Debra Camp

    May 11, 2011

  9. im a 5th grade student and my class made a poem about space so its grammer in science :p


    October 6, 2011

  10. When I use chalk with my classes, I give each student a small piece of brown paper towel. I demonstrate how to use a small amount of chalk and then rub it with pointer finger with the towel wrapped around their finger. They rub chalk into paper and fill their shape , preventing dust and mess. A more intense color is created by putting another layer of chalk and rubbing with finger in towel. This also helps with students who have a tactile aversion to the chalk.

    mary rogers

    October 28, 2011

  11. Just finished these today with 5th graders. I had no idea the pictures would be so gorgeous! The kids were THRILLED with the results, they loved the shading and 3D look of their spheres. I hung the pictures on a bulletin board covered with black paper and they look wonderful and give a feeling of being right in the middle of a galaxy. Definately a keeper, thanks!

    mary rogers

    November 7, 2011

    • I agree, this project teaches shading in a very cool, understandable way and the results are super!


      November 8, 2011

  12. I tried this lesson last week – the results turned out well and it’s a great activity for talking more about tone. I ended up using oil pastels (mostly because we didn’t have any black chalk). The shadows and highlights weren’t quite so strong but the colours were great and it made for a lot less mess! Thanks for posting all these great ideas! You’ve inspired me to start blogging my art lessons too 🙂

    Miss R

    April 2, 2012

  13. An inexpensive way to keep the chalk from smearing all over is to give the projects a light dusting of inexpensive hair spray. Hope this tip is helpful.

    Terri Mossgrove

    January 6, 2016

  14. Did you use white chalk pastel for the planet rings?

    Cori Nelson

    February 28, 2016

    • Yes. Chalk pastel works well, but if you want less smudging you could use oil pastels

      Patty Palmer

      February 29, 2016

  15. This is a great activity. It links beautifully with the art objectives on shading and our theme on space. Shame everyone is creating about the mess chalk makes. Kids need to get messy, art is messy.


    April 16, 2016

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