Our Galaxies lesson plan introduces students to the three major types of galaxies, as well as additional information related to the Milky Way galaxy. Students will be able to define galaxy and recognize, identify, and compare the three main types. They will also have to summarize the information they learn about the Milky Way galaxy.

There are lots of suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section on the classroom procedure page that you can take advantage of. For instance, you could invite an astronomer to speak with the class and answer their questions.

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What our Galaxies lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Galaxies explores these amazing parts of the universe. Students will learn what exactly a galaxy is and be able to recognize, identify, and compare the three main types. They will also discover more details specifically about our galaxy, the Milky Way. This lesson is for students in 4th grade and 5th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For the activity portion, you will need to get assorted colors of construction paper, glitter, scissors, string, glue, tape, and cardboard squares.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. It suggests you teach this lesson in conjunction with others about outer space and the universe. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


History of the Galaxy

The Galaxies lesson plan has three content pages. To start off, it explains how students live in a specific place with an address. If they gave this address to someone, that person could find the students’ home. In a similar way, Earth has an address, too. It resides in the solar system with seven other planets. And the solar system is part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of about 100 billion galaxies in the universe.

A galaxy is a group of stars, planets, dust, gas, and other objects in space. Scientists believe there are as many stars in the sky as there are grains of sand on a beach because of the numerous galaxies in the universe. Galaxies are huge. They can contain trillions of stars. One trillion is a number with twelve zeroes!

Before the 1900s, scientists and astronomers (people who study space) used to believe that all the stars of the universe were part of one giant group. In 1917, however, Thomas Wright suggested that there were many different groups of stars. Later, other astronomers proved his theory to be correct.

Each star in a galaxy spins around a center of high gravity in the same way planets may spin around the sun in a solar system. Galaxies are huge and expansive, but there is also a lot of empty space within the different galaxies, including supermassive black holes. In addition, there are clusters of galaxies separated by empty space.

The Milky Way

The word galaxy comes from the Greek word galaxias, which means milky. Earth and the solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers believe there are about 300 to 400 billion stars (the sun is one of those stars) that make up our galaxy. More than likely, there are just as many planets as well.

The diameter of our galaxy is about 120,000 light years and about 10,000 light years from top to bottom. The earth is located between the center and the edge of the galaxy.

Of course, astronomers know the most about the Milky Way. It is part of a cluster group of about 3,000 other galaxies they call the Local Group. The Local Group contains the closest galaxy to the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy. It is located 2.6 million light years away from the earth. That means it would take a beam of light about that long to reach the Andromeda. The end-to-end distance of most galaxies is about 100,000 light years across.

As stated earlier, stars move in galaxies, but the galaxies also rotate and move through space. Most are moving away from each other, and some collide with each other due to the expansion of the universe brought on by the big bang theory. According to this theory, nearly 10 to 20 billion years ago, the universe began with the expansion from a single atom.

Classification of Galaxies

Galaxies are classified based on their shapes. There are three main shapes of galaxies in the universe: spiral, elliptical, and irregular. The stars, gas, and dust gather in spiral arms around the center in spiral galaxies. Older stars are in the center while newer stars are part of the arms. About 20% of all galaxies have the spiral shape, including the Milky Way.

Elliptical galaxies consist of a large mass of stars that clump together in the shape of an ellipse (like the shape of a stretched circle). These consist mostly of old stars and not a lot of gas or dust. The largest galaxies in the universe are usually elliptical, but elliptical galaxies can be small. They account for 60% of galaxies.

The last classification is irregular. These galaxies have no shape or specific pattern. They usually form when two galaxies collide and lose their spiral or elliptical shape. In addition, they often remain influenced by the gravity of nearby galaxies. Irregular galaxies make up 20% of galaxies in the universe.

A starburst is a name for galaxies that form many new stars at a fast rate during a collision. However, it is important to remember that the development, movement, and collision of galaxies and stars take place over millions or billions of years. A galactic year, the time it takes for the sun to orbit the center of the Milky Way galaxy, is about 200 million years.


The Galaxies lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


For the activity, students will get to create mobiles of different galaxies. They will use the materials and supplies you provide to create and assemble their mobiles. First, they will trace or draw different galaxy shapes onto the construction paper, which they will then cut out. Using a marker, they will label the shape and the name of the galaxy. They can use the other supplies to embellish their mobiles.

Once they assemble their mobiles, students will share them with the rest of the class and explain the different shapes and names. You can display their galaxies in the classroom or other location in the school.


The practice worksheet divides into two separate matching sections. For the first section, students will match descriptions to the correct term they represent. There are 12 descriptions and 12 possible options in the word bank. The second section requires students to match characteristics with the correct type of galaxy. There are eight total descriptions in this section.


For the homework assignment, students will first answer a series of 10 questions that relate to the facts they learned during the lesson. Next, they will name the three shapes or types of galaxies. At the bottom of the page, they will get to create a new galaxy type and name. There is room for them to sketch a picture of it, name it, and name a specific galaxy.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The lesson plan document includes answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets. All the correct answers are in red to make it easy to compare them with students’ responses. Only the last prompt of the homework assignment should have any variation. All other responses should mirror those of the answer keys. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information




4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade

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Use them all the time

I love using Clarendon/Learn Bright. My students are engaged and interested. They like the activities and are actually learning!

Kathy H.

Galaxies Review

The students loved learning about galaxies, they especially liked the mobile.

Beth W.

Excellent resource

I used this with my Year 5 class and they loved it. I really liked the cross-curricular element, mixing Science with Literacy and Art. I adapted the reading comprehension and made it a jigsaw activity, where 2 groups had to find the answers to half of the questions and then pair up with the other group to share their answers. This made it a fun activity, practising listening and speaking skills and teamwork, and reading skills like skimming and scanning. The Glittering Galaxies (as I called it) Art activity was very enjoyable and I put up some images of different types of galaxies on the board which the kids used as inspiration. Thank you!

Brenda N.

Awesome Resource

I loved using this! So easy, so fun, and so engaging

Kathy E.


Great resource for my 5th grade science class