Pluto's Identity Crisis

A Great Story Parable

by Connie Barlow and Bella Downey

"Earth Scouts" rehearsed and performed the Pluto Parable
at the Earth Charter Community Summit in Portland OR, October 2005.


SCIENCE BACKGROUND: In the late 1990s, top astronomers engaged in a public debate about whether or not Pluto should be considered a planet. In August 2006 it was resolved: astronomers decided that Pluto was a dwarf planet (see wikipedia definition of dwarf planet. In this playful parable, suitable for adults and children, you will learn the science behind the debate — and how that controversy was resolved. This parable is also a way to teach children about adoption.

  • Click for a 5-PART SCRIPT for ADULTS or TEENS (in PDF) that is a dramatic translation of this parable for acting out. No rehearsal necessary. Volunteers can be recruited from audience or classroom and need no time to prepare.
  • Click for a script that ELEMENTARY and MIDDLE-SCHOOL KIDS (of different reading abilities) can act out with no advance preparation!. There are roles for 4 kids who can read well, and then 8 more who can't read as well.
  • Click for a version of this parable TO READ TO YOUNG CHILDREN.

  • Click for a scripted MUSICAL VERSION OF THE PLUTO PARABLE FOR KIDS, adapted by Sally Beth Shore, using planet songs from a popular children's songwriter. This version requires rehearsal time for the children before their performance.


    Neighborhood kids recruited by Sally Beth Shore, performing The Pluto Parable
    after fun days of learning songs, rehearsing parts, and making costumes.

  • Note: Connie got the idea to write this parable after a program she gave at the Unitarian Church of New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 2002. The children had just called out the names of all the planets, when one of the older boys challenged, "Pluto is not a planet!" Connie hemmed and hawed, as she was well aware that some scientists, including the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, had stripped Pluto of its planethood because all agreed that Pluto had been added to the solar system through capture. In contrast, the other planets had formed from the same cloud of gases and space dust from which our Sun coalesced nearly five billion years ago.

    Two days later, Connie was having breakfast with New York friends, Leslie Pilder and Carol Deangelo. She told the story of the boy's challenge and her own inability to respond. But here in this little group, the solution emerged. "Of course Pluto is a planet! Pluto is an adopted planet!"

    Connie thanks Leslie Pilder and John and Lynda Cock for excellent suggestions in the honing of this parable.

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