Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

Please click on my page to see my personal artwork and artist statement: http://thehelpfulartteacher.blogspot.com/p/the-art-of-rachel-wintembe.html

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Studying The Solar System: Use Art and Technology to teach Science

An interdisciplinary science, math, art and technology lesson by Marc Taras, Lindsey Tisch and Rachel Wintemberg
William C. McGinnis School, Perth Amboy NJ

We used the following iPad apps and websites to investigate the solar system:

This page on the website www.outerspaceuniverse.org gave our students the information they needed to create their own planets on the iPads by answering the question: 

What are the colors of each planet in the solar system?

We cut up the worksheet above and had each group pick a planet out of a hat. They then researched information on that planet using the iPad app Solar Walk,
 http://vitotechnology.com/solar-walk.html. Here is how you can do the same project, in your classroom or at home:

Once the app loads, click on the magnifying glass icon and select your assigned planet. 

Click on the 'i' on the bottom for information about your planet.

This will give you general information about the planet. Scroll through the picture gallery at the bottom to see what your planet looks like. 

Click on 'figures' to find out how big your planet is and how far away it is from the sun.

Work as a group to find information about your planet and fill out the worksheet below:

How many sheets of toilet paper would you need to represent the distance of your planet from the sun? You will need this information later.

Now you are ready to create your own planet on the iPad, using the apps Sketchbook Pro and PS Touch. Use the video tutorial and worksheets below to create your own planets.


After watching the video, print out these six worksheets and follow the steps to create your own planets. 

Follow the tutorial below to download the app PS touch to your iPad or iPhone for free. It is no longer available in the app store but this is actually good news. It was a $10 app for iPad and is now available, using the method described below for free. I tested it out and it works perfectly.

Student Art Gallery


Once the teacher has printed all of the planets and the sun it is time to use them to create your own virtual solar system. Each group will need a picture of their planet, the information worksheet filled out and a roll of toilet paper. Go into the hall where you will have more room. Place the sun half way down the hallway.  Have each group roll out the number of sheets of toilet paper necessary to show how far their planet is from the sun. Compare how far away each planet is from all the other planets.

After creating posters of each planet and the sun using the iPad apps Sketchbook Pro and PS Touch, we looked up how far each planet was from the sun using the iPad app Solar Walk. Once we found out how many kilometers each planet is from the sun, we used one square of toilet paper for every 100,000,000 kilometers and created a model solar system.

Questions for discussion:

How does the chemical make up of each planet affect the colors of the planet?

Compare the distance of the inner planets from the sun.

Compare the distance of the outer planets to the sun.

Compare how far each planet is from the Earth.


Click on the links below to read about an amazing new resource for young artists and scientists exploring the cosmos:

"Now students, with a few keystrokes on their computer can try their own hand at mixing science with art by controlling small telescopes that take pictures of planets, stars, galaxies, asteroids, nebulas and other astronomical objects. They can then use those images to create their own artistic renditions of the cosmos through the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network, a group of five automated telescopes controlled online."

How to discover a new planet:

NJ Visual Arts Core Curriculum Content Standards:
1.3.8.D.6 Synthesize the physical properties, processes, and techniques for visual communication in multiple art media (including digital media), and apply this knowledge to the creation of original artworks.

Mathematic Standards:

NJCCCS/NETS: 6.RP.A.3.d Use ratio reasoning to convert measurement units. 

Science Standards:

5.4.6.A.4 Compare and contrast the major physical characteristics (including size and scale) of solar system objects using evidence in the form of data tables and photographs.

We would like to thank Dr. Garcia for supporting this interdisciplinary endeavor and 
 Rutgers Institute for Improving Student Achievement  and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation for making this project possible.

Special thanks also to the sixth grade students of the William C. McGinnis School for creating the beautiful artwork and the solar system model.

Additional useful links:

The Artist Who Helped Invent Space Travel

As the Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 12, Alan Bean was the fourth man to set foot on the moon. He explored the beautifully desolate landscape of the Ocean of Storms and later, as commander of Skylab Mission II, Alan spent 59 days in orbit around our fragile, blue-and-white Earth.

 Alan had been painting earthbound subjects for many years by the time he began training to pilot the space shuttle, but his fellow astronauts convinced him to paint his experiences on the moon. “You can create the very first paintings in all of history of a place other than our own planet,” they said. “Your paintings will forever be the first paintings of the many other worlds humans will visit as the centuries unfold.” 

Because of this unprecedented opportunity and challenge, Alan resigned from NASA in 1981 to devote all of his time and energy to painting. Over the years, Alan's art has evolved into a mixture of painting and sculpture, textured with lunar tools, sprinkled with bits of Apollo spacecraft and a touch of moon dust. You can see many of Alan Bean's paintings on this site and read more about the space-age techniques and materials used in his work.


  1. Thanks for sharing with us .. Awesome post!

  2. Hey very interesting blog!

  3. Yooooooooooooo that's me in the fiurst few seconds in the bluue sweatshirt

  4. Appreciate this post. Will try it out.