Bakersfield College

William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College

The Sun

This page is also available as a PDF.

Activities

Standards: 3rd grade Earth Science 2b,c, 4c; Language Arts 1.1, 1.2, 2.2, 2.3 5th Grade Language Arts 1.4

Materials
  • one or more telescopes or binoculars set on a tripod
  • solar filters for telescopes and/or binoculars
  • cardboard shades (empty cereal boxes work)
  • Improvised image screen or dark wall in shadows
  • Video camera or tape recorder
  • Student journals for taking notes/drawing pictures
  • Word processor and printer (5th grade)
Motivational Set
Ask students, “Have you ever looked through a telescope?” Let students share their experiences. Tell them, “Today we have some special guests who have set up their telescope(s) for us to look at the Sun and Moon.” Introduce your guest. Have the guests or teacher explain how a telescope works. (http://science.howstuffworks.com/telescope1.htm) Prior to viewing the Sun, discuss with the students about the hazards of looking at the Sun without special filters.
Procedure
  1. Take students outside and using a telescope with solar filters look at the sun. It would be good to get the local Astronomy club involved to supply and set up telescopes for student use. Have more than one telescope available if possible or set up the telescope or binoculars to project the Sun’s image onto an improvised screen. (See the website below for viewing the Sun safely.) Record student comments about what they see. You might want to us a tape recorder or video camera. Also, have the students look to see if they can view the Moon. If possible have a second telescope set up for students take a close up view of the Moon. Where is it in the sky and what does it look like? Students should take notes and make sketches about what they see.
  2. After they look through the telescope, have the students sketch a picture of what they saw and write a paragraph describing what they saw and how they feel about what they saw. You might want to play back the audio/video tape of the students observing if students don’t remember what their initial reactions were to viewing the Sun and Moon.
  3. Write a thank you note to the guests. (3rd grade write by hand, 5th grade type on a word processor and print)
  • Extension: Read and discuss a story about the Sun or Moon. Ask your school’s librarian for suggestions that are available in the library. Write poetry or a story about the Sun and/or Moon with illustrations.
  • Following Activity 1 do one or more of the following activities or create your own.

To view sample lessons and to purchase the book go here: http://www.astrosociety.org/education/astro/astropubs/universe.html

Standards: 3rd grade Earth Science 1a, 4d 5th grade Earth Science 5a

Overview

Students will:

  • observe a candle and discuss what properties it shares with our Sun.
  • make a scale model of the Sun and Earth, compare size differences
  • design their own sun with artistic expression
Extension
5th grade make a poster showing the parts of the Sun and Sun features. Give the students access to a variety of resources: the school Library, the World Wide Web, encyclopedia, other. Have Students create a vocabulary list for Sun parts and facts and a Bingo game where the clues are the definition and the matching words are on the Bingo card. Play the Bingo game.
Standards
Grade 3: Earth Science 2a, 4e, 5; Language Arts 1.1, 1.2
Grade 5: Earth Science 5a, 6; Language Arts 1.4, 2.3
Overview
Students are to conduct an experiment to help them understand and infer the motion of the Sun in relationship to Earth
Objectives
  • Students will determine how shadows are made and how shadows can change by experimenting with a solid object and a flashlight.
  • Students will apply their understanding of how shadows change to a study of the Sun/Earth relationship.
  • Students will generate hypotheses about how shadows form and change before conducting their investigations.
  • Students will collect, record, analyze and draw conclusion based on their data about shadows to either support or refute their hypothesis.
  • Students will write a report explaining the results of their experiment showing how shadows can explain the Sun’s movement in the sky.
Motivational Set
Make shadow puppets using an overhead projector. Ask, “What are shadows? How are they made?” follow-up with a short discussion/brainstorm but don’t tell them the answers.
Procedure
  1. Have students go outside and look at shadows of various objects on the playground. Supply the students with paper to draw pictures of what they see.
  2. Once students are back in the classroom, have students form into cooperative groups of 3 students where they are to discuss what they saw and share their pictures. Groups are to remain together and brainstorm what they know about shadows and organize it into a KWL chart. Cooperative group format: Student roles: recorder- takes notes of any group discussions, records data and organizes it; speaker-shares group information with the class, keeps group on task; and graphic artist- puts together the final product using various technologies that are required/selected for the project. Technologies may include Kidspiration or Inspiration, word processor, spread sheet and/or handheld computer.
  3. Exploring Shadows with a flashlight
    • Groups must generate a hypothesis about: What causes shadows? and What causes shadows to change?/li>
    • Refer to KWL chart. The teacher may need to explain that a hypothesis is an explanation for why something might happen.
    • Materials needed to answer the question: Light source (flashlight), Object to cast a shadow, Measuring device (ruler/meter stick), Paper/penci

    Give the students time (about 10 minutes) to investigate shadows using the above supplies. (one student holds the flashlight, one the object, one is the recorder of data)

    After time is up, the students need to discuss what they found and then, as a group, write a paragraph explaining their conclusions about shadows. They should start with telling what their hypothesis was and then explain if it was correct or not and why. The recorder does the writing but all must help in the wording and proof reading. The graphic artist may also draw pictures to illustrate the conclusions. The speaker will present the group’s findings to the class. Follow the class presentations with an all class discussion about what they have learned about shadows. Complete the KWL charts.

    To make the presentations interesting and for others to see the illustrations each group drew, scan in the drawings and written conclusions onto a computer who’s screen is projected for the entire class to see. Alternatively have each group do their writing and drawing using the available technology in the classroom and then load it onto the computer that is used for projection.

  4. Sun Shadows/motion: Now that the students have an idea about the cause of shadows and that they can change, they will observe how the Sun’s motion in the sky affects shadows. The students are now going to apply their knowledge of shadows to shadows created outside by the Sun. Ask the students to think about how shadows change outside. What causes them to change? Do shadows change with day length, position of sun in sky, time of year, or path Sun takes across the sky? The students should discuss the above questions in their small groups and then write down their hypothesis in their science journal. This can be an electronic or hand written journal. Students should keep all their data, analysis questions and conclusion question and answers in the journal.
Materials (for each group)
  • A straight stick 12” long
  • A piece of clay large enough to put the stick in so that it won’t fall over
  • A large piece of cardboard with no writing on it
  • Marker or pencil
  • Data table
  • Clock/watch
  • Meter stick/yard stick
  • Compass
  • 10 inch piece of string with a small washer tied to one end
  • Tape
Set-up

(If there is enough space, each student group should set up their own experiment so each group has the experience of collecting the data.)

  1. Pick a location on the school playground that won’t be disturbed by other students and that will get sun all day long.
  2. Place the stick in the clay and set it on the ground so that the stick is straight up. To do this, tape a piece of string with a small washer tied on the end to the top end of the stick. The washer end is left hanging free. When the string is lying on the stick as the stick is sitting in the clay then the stick is straight up.
  3. Using a compass, determine which side of the stick is the North side and lay down the cardboard next to the stick, on the North side of the stick, so that the stick is touching the middle of the longest side of the cardboard. Make a mark where the stick touches the cardboard. The shadow of the stick should fall on the cardboard. (This is if you are doing this experiment in the Northern Hemisphere of the world.)
  4. Mark the compass directions on the cardboard. The stick is in the South.
Data Collection
  1. Make a mark at the tip of the shadow on the cardboard and write down the time of day. You should have this set up by 9:00 am. The earlier it is set up, the better.
  2.  
  3. Mark the shadow length and time every hour until school is out.
  4. The next day, measure the length of each of the shadows by measuring from where the stick touched the cardboard to the mark of the shadow tip. Record the data in a data table.
    Time Shadow Length Shadow Direction
         
         
         
         
         
         
  5. If each group recorded their own data, you may find that different groups’ data differ slightly or significantly depending on how well they recorded their data and measured the shadow lengths. This comparison would serve as a good discussion into experimental error and why it is important to do the experiment several times to confirm results.
Analysis

(Group members are to answer the following questions together.)

  1. Look at the data table. What time of day was the shadow the longest?
  2. What time of day was the shadow the shortest?
  3. How long do you think the shadow of the stick would be at 4 pm? Why do you think this?
  4. What is causing the shadow lengths to change? Why do you think this?
  5. Look at the cardboard and find the 9:30 am shadow. Which direction is the shadow pointing? North, South, East, West? Where was the sun in the sky at this time? North, South, East, West?
  6. What direction is the shadow pointing at 12:00 pm? North, South, East, West? Where was the Sun in the sky?
  7. What direction will the shadow be pointing at 4 pm? North, South, East, West? Where was the Sun in the sky?
Conclusion

(Each student is to answer the following questions independently.)

Answer each of the following as best as you can. You may also draw pictures to help illustrate your explanation.

  1. Was your hypothesis correct? Why or why not?
  2. Explain what you learned about the Sun’s motion in the sky. (Think about how the Sun moves across the sky. What direction does it move? How can you tell? Why does the Sun appear to move? What is really moving?)
  3. Explain what you learned about shadows. (Think about what causes shadows and how they can change.)
  4. Is there a relationship between the Sun’s motion in the sky and shadows? Explain.
Extension
Keep a record of the noontime shadow length of the same stick during one semester. Record the noontime shadow length at approximately the same day (example 15th) of each month or close to it as possible. After a 4-month period how has the shadow length changed? Why did it change? Where was the Sun in the sky? What conclusion can you draw about how the Sun moves in the sky? (If your 4-month period was September to December, you’d notice the shadow length getting longer. The Sun is lower in the southern sky in December than it is in September.)
Assessment
Phase of Experiment Excellent Improving Needs more work
Conclusion – Shadows with a Flashlight (Group) Shows a clear understanding of how shadows form and change Shows some understanding of how shadows form and change but may be somewhat unclear. Contains many misconceptions.
Analysis – Sun Shadows/motion (Group) Questions are fully and accurately answered. Questions are answered but completeness and/or accuracy could be improved. Only a few questions are answered and are incomplete.
Conclusion – Sun Shadows/motion (Individual) Shows a clear understanding of the Sun’s motion in the sky and how the Sun’s motion affects shadows. Shows some understanding of the Sun’s motion in the sky and how the Sun’s motion affects shadows but may be unclear in some places Contains many misconceptions.

Standards

The following standards are covered in one or more of the activities listed:

1. Energy and Matter have multiple forms and can be changed from one form to another. As a basis for understanding this concept:
1.a: Students know energy comes from the Sun to the Earth in the form of light.
2. Light has a source and travels in a direction. As a basis for understanding this concept:
2.a: Students know sunlight can be blocked to create shadows.
2.b: Students know light is reflected from mirrors and other surfaces.
4. Objects in the sky move in regular and predictable patterns. As a basis for under- standing this concept:
4.c: Students know telescopes magnify the appearance of some distant objects in the sky, including the Moon and the planets. The number of stars that can be seen through telescopes is dramatically greater than the number that can be seen by the unaided eye.
4.d: Students know that Earth is one of several planets that orbit the Sun and that the Moon orbits Earth.
4.e: Students know the position of the Sun in the sky changes during the course of the day and from season to season.
5. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations.

1.0 Writing Strategies

Organization and Focus

1.1 Create a single paragraph:

a Develop a topic sentence.

b Include simple supporting facts and details.

Penmanship

1.2 Write legibly in cursive or joined italic, allowing margins and correct spacing between letters in a word and words in a sentence.

2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.2 Write descriptions that use concrete sensory details to present and support unified impressions of people, places, things, or experiences.

2.3 Write personal and formal letters, thank-you notes, and invitations:

a Show awareness of the knowledge and interests of the audience and establish a purpose and context.

b Include the date, proper salutation, body, closing, and signature.

1.0 Written and Oral English Language Conventions

Students write and speak with a command of standard English conventions appropriate to this grade level.

5: The solar system consists of planets and other bodies that orbit the Sun in predictable paths. As a basis for understanding this concept:
5.a: Students know the Sun, an average star, is the central and largest body in the solar system and is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium.
6. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations.

1.0 Writing Strategies

Research and Technology

1.3 Use organizational features of printed text (e.g., citations, end notes, bibliographic references) to locate relevant information.

1.4 Create simple documents by using electronic media and employing organizational features (e.g., passwords, entry and pull-down menus, word searches, a thesaurus, spell checks).

1.5 Use a thesaurus to identify alternative word choices and meanings.

Evaluation and Revision

1.6 Edit and revise manuscripts to improve the meaning and focus of writing by adding, deleting, consolidating, clarifying, and rearranging words and sentences.

2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.3 Write research reports about important ideas, issues, or events by using the following guidelines:

a Frame questions that direct the investigation.

b Establish a controlling idea or topic.

c Develop the topic with simple facts, details, examples, and explanations.

1.0 Written and Oral English Language Conventions

Students write and speak with a command of standard English conventions appropriate to this grade level.

2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.2 Deliver informative presentations about an important idea, issue, or event by the following means:

a Frame questions to direct the investigation.

b Establish a controlling idea or topic.

c Develop the topic with simple facts, details, examples, and explanations.

Kern Community College District