Stroll through the solar system
8th Grade Academy constructs to-scale project on display in downtown Greenfield this weekend
Students walk by the Sun, located at the front of the Energy Park. Greenfield's 8th Grade Academy has constructed a scaled-down solar system walk, which runs 1.6 miles from the Sun to Neptune (at Greenfield High School). (Recorder/Chris Shores) Purchase photo reprints »
Greenfield's 8th Grade Academy has constructed a scaled-down solar system walk, which runs 1.6 miles from the Sun (at the Energy Park) to Neptune (at Greenfield High School). Putting up Jupiter in front of Wilson's parking lot, from left to right: Dakwon Crapps, Matteo Velez and Mekhi Maratea. (Recorder/Chris Shores) Purchase photo reprints »
Sam Knight attaches a model and poster of Earth to a railing along the side of Miles Street. Greenfield's 8th Grade Academy has constructed a scaled-down solar system walk, which runs 1.6 miles from the Sun (at the Energy Park) to Neptune (at Greenfield High School). (Recorder/Chris Shores) Purchase photo reprints »
GREENFIELD — Ever wanted to travel from the sun to Neptune and back again?
Greenfield residents will have that opportunity this weekend in a walking route designed by Greenfield 8th Grade Academy students.
Models of the sun and eight planets of the solar system have been constructed and are on display along a 1.6-mile stretch from the Energy Park to Greenfield High School.
Approximately 2.8 billion miles — the distance between the sun and planet Neptune — has been scaled down into the route.
As people walk from the Energy Park entrance — where a papier-mache sun rests — down Miles Street, they encounter the first four planets before reaching Main Street.
Then, on Davis Street, the distances begin to become more noticeable.
Jupiter is located at the Wilson’s Department Store spillover parking lot, and then there is a 0.3-mile walk to Saturn, at the Greenfield School administration building.
It is about 0.4 miles to the corner of Davis Street and Holly Avenue, the site of Uranus.
And then the walk to Neptune, located in front of the high school, is another 0.7 miles.
The size of the planets are to scale, too. With the sun the size of an exercise ball, the biggest planets are not much bigger than a baseball. And the first four planets, including Earth, are tiny balls of clays that could be held between your fingers.
It is the second year the 8th Grade Academy has built the models, and accompanying informational posters, for the solar system walk.
Science teacher Angie Ruggeri, who led the entire class of about 120 students down the walk Friday morning, said the goal was to counter most of the inaccurate solar system drawings that exist.
“The drawings in the books are never to scale,” said Ruggeri. “The sun is supposed to be a million times larger than the earth. No student would ever think that from anything they’ve ever seen.”
Students were assigned to teams to build the models and information poster — which lists facts including the planet’s size, length of day, length of year and number of moons.
Sarah O’Sullivan, 13, enjoyed being able to research her planet Neptune, and the other planets in the solar system.
“It surprised me that it took (Neptune) so long for it to do one revolution,” she said. “(Scientists) discovered it 1846 and it just finished its first revolution in 2011.”
Sam Knight, 13, worked on a team that built the Earth model and poster. While he wished the models were bigger, he did enjoy the project.
Knight even learned something about Earth that he never knew.
“Its name actually means ‘fertile soil,’” he said.
Both Ruggeri and team leader Kerry Heathwaite hope that community members take the opportunity to learn about the solar system while simultaneously getting some exercise this weekend.
The models and posters that are on display were selected by the students through a grade-wide vote. They will remain in their locations until Monday.
You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264