You can make a solar system model out of many types of materials. The one thing you should keep in mind is scale; you will need to represent the different planets according to differences in size.
You should also realize that a true scale will probably not be possible when it comes to distance. Especially if you have to carry this model on the school bus!
One of the easiest materials to use for planets is Styrofoam© balls. They are inexpensive, lightweight, and they come in a variety of sizes.
There are two main types of models: box models and hanging models. You will need a very large (basketball sized) circle or semi-circle to represent the sun. For a box model, you could use a large foam ball, and for a hanging model you could use an inexpensive toy ball. You will find inexpensive balls at a one-dollar store.
You can use inexpensive finger paint or markers to color the planets. A sample range when considering sizes for planets, from large to small, might measure:
(This is not the right order--see the sequence below.)
- Jupiter (brownish with a red spot): 4-7 inches
- Saturn (yellow with red ring): 3- 6 inches
- Uranus (green): 4-5 inches
- Neptune (blue): 3-4 inches
- Venus (yellow): 2 inches
- Earth (blue): 2 inches
- Mars (red): 1 and 1/2 inches
- Mercury (orange): 1 inch
To make a hanging model, you can use dowel rods to connect the planets to the sun in the center. You could also use a hula-hoop toy to form the main structure, suspend the sun in the middle (connect it to two sides), and hang the planets around the circle.
To make a box model, cut off the top flaps of the box and set it on its side. Color the inside of the box black, to represent space. You might also sprinkle silver glitter inside for stars. Attach the semicircular sun to one side, and hang the planets in order, from the sun, in the following sequence:
Remember the mnemonic device for this is: My very educated mother just served us nachos.