Como Planetarium: The Sun's Path

Contributor
COMO Planetarium – St. Paul Public Schools
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

The lesson begins with the guiding question:  How far does the sun move between the time your bus arrives at school, and the time you eat your lunch?  Using a panorama photo, students make predictions and then collect data about the position of the sun during various times of the day in their location.  There are two videos that are linked or on the site that can be shown to students relating to the lesson.  The lesson instructs teachers to use the app “Photosynth” to make their own panorama photos.  That app is not available any longer but there are a variety of apps for both IOS and android that could be used.  There is an extension activity with a video that asks students to identify how the apparent movement of stars in the night sky relates to the path of the sun in the daytime sky.

Intended Audience

Educator
Educational Level
  • Grade 5
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

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
While the lesson does not specifically instruct the students to make graphical displays, the lesson can be extended to have students represent the number of fists high the sun is from the horizon at the various times of day. This would assist students in visualizing the change over the course of the day or if the lesson is repeated through the year, the seasonal change in the sun's height and path across the sky. Exploring how each fists = roughly 10 degrees of angle between the horizon and the sun reinforces angles and angle measurement explored in the fourth grade common core mathematics standards. Students must be cautioned not to look directly at the sun when making these observations.

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 are instructed to make observations about the height of the sun relative to the horizon by counting the number of fists high the sun is in the sky. Another possible alternative would be to have students take pictures of the sun’s position throughout the day and measure the distance the sun is from the horizon in centimeters. They would need to brainstorm making this a fair way to collect data – controlling the variables. Again, students must be cautioned not to look directly at the sun when making these observations.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The lesson itself does not address the rotation of Earth as the cause for the pattern seen in the height and direction of the sun’s movement in the sky. It is purely observation of the phenomenon. Additional Instruction would have to occur to link the cause of this phenomenon to Earth’s rotation. This could be accomplished using simulations and/or models. If this lesson was repeated at different months throughout the year, you could extend the element of disciplinary core idea that is addressed. The extension in this lesson asks students to identify how the apparent movement of stars in the night sky relates to the path of the sun in the daytime sky. Students would need more than this video to visualize this movement, but the cause of the apparent movement is also Earth’s rotation.

Crosscutting Concepts

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
Even though it is not written in this lesson, the reason for doing this lesson would be for students to connect the patterns they notice about the apparent movement of the sun in both height and direction in this lesson as evidence that Earth rotates. A teacher would need to find other activities or lessons to help build that understanding. Repeating the lesson at different times of the year would build understanding of seasonal patterns as well. Students would need to be directed to use the patterns observed in their observations in an explanation includes rotation of the Earth as the cause.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson is not intentionally three dimensional, but all three dimensions can be explored through the lesson. The practice and crosscutting concept are not explicit, and must be emphasized by the instructor. Meeting the goals of using the crosscutting concept requires additional instruction in which students would use the patterns identified as evidence to support an explanation.

  • Instructional Supports: The resource gives some instructional support with the added videos and the information about the panorama app. In addition, it engages students using familiar activities when asking about the location of the sun. There is no support for differentiation, but it seems very accessible to most learners. Strategic partnering of students while doing the activity might be helpful.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: There is limited information about monitoring student progress. Students are asked to write what they learned in their science notebooks. The teacher could be monitoring their writing to ensure that they are recording data that can be used to provide evidence for an explanation and extending the lesson to include an explanation of the phenomenon..

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Technology is not required for this lesson. The panoramic photo is not necessary. A drawing can be used instead.