Kinesthetic Astronomy - Sky Time Lesson

Contributor
Space Science Institute Dr. Cherilynn Morrow, Michael Zawaski
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

Students construct a size-distance scale model for the sun, Earth, moon and stars.  In addition, they use their bodies and movements to model the relationship between time and astronomical motions of Earth (rotation on its axis and orbit around the sun) as well as how these motions affect our view of objects in the sky at various times of day and year.  Earth’s rotation causes day and night as well as the daily pattern of the sun’s apparent motion and altitude relative to the horizon.  In addition, it affects the apparent motion of constellations and stars in the night sky as viewed from Earth.  Earth’s orbit around the sun changes the constellations visible in the night sky in a yearly pattern. .  The entire lesson is not appropriate for 5th grade, but can be completed without these sections.   It includes modeling the reasons for the season using the tilting of students’ bodies which is more appropriate for later grade levels.  For those parts that can be used, the following two prerequisites (found on page 4) are observable phenomena that students can connect to the model.  1. Has observed the daily motion of the Sun in the sky and 6. Knows that stars appear in fixed patterns called "constellations".  The daily pattern of shadow length and direction is an additional phenomenon that can be connected to the daily motion of the Sun, thus also connecting to the lesson.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Informal Education
  • High School
  • Middle School
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

5-ESS1-2 Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.

Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include the position and motion of Earth with respect to the sun and selected stars that are visible only in particular months.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include causes of seasons.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson allows students to model the movement of the Earth to describe the pattern of day and night caused by Earth’s rotation and the seasonal appearance of stars in the night sky caused by Earth’s orbit. While students are not creating graphical displays, this lesson develops understanding of elements of the disciplinary core ideas that are essential for achieving the performance expectation. While daily changes and length of shadows are not addressed in the model, the phenomenon can be used as a springboard for investigation of the cause of the pattern using the model. The lesson includes modeling the reasons for the seasons using the tilting of students’ bodies as Earth’s tilt. For this grade level and Performance Expectation, these parts of the lesson and model would not be appropriate.

5-ESS1-1 Support an argument that differences in the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from the Earth.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to relative distances, not sizes, of stars. Assessment does not include other factors that affect apparent brightness (such as stellar masses, age, stage).

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In the section, IIa. The Set-up for Kinesthetic Astronomy (page 8), given a grapefruit as a model for the sun, students make predictions about the size of the Earth and its distance from the sun. They then are asked to predict the distance from the grapefruit sun to Alpha Centauri, also grapefruit size. The lesson informs students that if the sun and Alpha Centauri were the size of grapefruits the distance between them would span from east coast to west coast of the US. A teacher could have students calculate the distance in miles using maps or other reference information. Students need to be able to relate this distance to their world. For many, spanning east to west coast is not meaningful on its own. A teacher could relate it to distances in their local state or area. For example, the distance between St. Louis and Kansas City is approximately 250 miles so it would be like traveling from St. Louis to Kansas City 10 times.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use a scaled size model of the Earth and the sun to describe distances between the sun and Earth and between the sun and its closest star – Alpha Centauri. The rest of the lesson is a kinesthetic model in which students use their bodies and movements to model the relationship between time and astronomical motions of Earth. Rotation of earth on its axis causes night and day as well as the daily pattern of the sun’s apparent motion in the sky. Students model these kinesthetically placing North America on their chests and using the East and West signs in their hands with their arms as Earth’s east-west horizon. Earth’s orbit around the sun affects what we see in the night sky at various times of the year – seasonal stars and constellations. This is modeled using the zodiac constellation signs placed around Earth’s orbital path.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
On page 9, step 11, the lesson asks questions of students that identify limitations of the kinesthetic model. To make the lesson align better with the practice, it can be modified to have students work together to identify the limitations rather than leading them with the provided questions.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Evidence from this model can be used by students to support the argument that the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distance from Earth. Students must identify the evidence from the model that supports the claim or argument that distance affects the apparent brightness of stars. They can use both the scale model distance and the actual distance in their argument. Students can also use evidence from the model to support an explanation of Earth’s rotation as a cause for day and night and Earth’s orbit as a cause for seasonal appearance of stars and constellations.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students use the kinesthetic model to describe the patterns of day and night, the position of the sun at sunrise, midday, and sunset; and how stars and constellations appear to rise and set all caused by Earth’s rotation. The lesson also uses the model to show the different positions of stars and constellations as viewed from Earth at different times of the year caused by Earth’s orbit around the sun. Additional activities or connections can be made to emphasize the patterns caused by the movements of Earth. While daily patterns of change in shadows are not discussed in the lesson, they are an effect of the daily pattern of the apparent motion of the sun in the sky which is in turn an effect of Earth’s rotation. A teacher could choose to begin with observation of this phenomenon and engage the students in using the model to support the argument that Earth’s rotation is the cause.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This model compares the distance of the sun to Earth to the distance of the sun to Alpha Centauri. It does not address any of the other stars compared to the sun or to each other; therefore, it only partially addresses the second sentence of the Disciplinary Core Idea: Stars range greatly in their distance from Earth. Students will still need to engage in activities that show the varying distances of the many stars visible from Earth. This could be accomplished by constructing 3D scale models of the distances of stars from Earth within constellations. Students will also need to engage in activities that show how distance affects the brightness of luminous objects. FAQ 4 on page 34 discusses the idea of brightness of the sun compared to other stars because of distance, but it is not addressed specifically in the model.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
While the lesson focuses on the relationship of rotation to day and night and the position of the sun relative to the horizon and also orbit to seasonal appearance of stars and constellations, it does not explicitly discuss the causal relationship. When using the model, students need to be made aware of the causal relationship. This may require using other models in addition to this one so they can experience it from a different perspective.

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The lesson asks students about patterns of stars that make up constellations, but does not explicitly call attention to the patterns in sunrise and sunset and in the appearance of seasonal stars or constellations. Each day repeats after 24 hours. Each day has a sunrise and sunset with a pattern of the sun beginning low in the sky, getting higher to midday and getting lower until sunset when it becomes dark. Each year repeats after 365 days with the pattern of seasonal constellations viewed repeating each year. As students use the model, the teacher should ask them about the patterns they are observing as well as how they might be used as evidence of Earth’s rotation or orbit as a cause.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: While elements of all three dimensions of science practices, disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts are present in the lesson, they are not explicitly integrated. There are definite opportunities for the teacher to modify the lesson making the integration explicit for students using the tips provided. The teacher will also need to modify questions and teaching strategies in the lesson to make it more learner-centered than teacher directed while placing a focus on developing a causal relationship between Earth’s movements and the phenomena of day/night and the appearance of seasonal constellations.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson does not have an engaging phenomenon for students. There is not a reason for them to use the model. Collecting daily shadow data and the need to explain the cause of that pattern would provide a reason to use the model. There are a variety of “tips” and other boxes with ideas to assist students in concept development as well as answer questions that students or teachers might have when using the lesson. There are not explicit supports in the lesson for differentiated instruction.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: A teacher at this level would not want to use all of the pages in the assessment document as some are specific to tilt of Earth as cause of seasons. Pages 2-4 in the written assessment document are a pre-assessment of the concepts in the lesson. Page 5 is another model of the distance model in Section IIa. Pages 7-9 assess their understanding of how the parts of their body model the Earth, the times of day and the terms rotation and obit. Pages 16-21 are those dealing with seasonal constellations. All of the assessment pages require students to read and write. A teacher would need to adapt the assessments to meet students with reading or writing difficulties.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource is a series of PDF documents and has not technological component.