Journey North Mystery Class – Photoperiod

Annenberg Learner
Type Category
Instructional Materials
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.


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Most Recent Review

5 Journey North Mystery Classes

I have used this resource for well over ten years and absolutely love it. The time commitment up front is worth it. My students have connected with other students all over the world. Well done.


This resource provides methods for teaching students to calculate and graph photoperiod (amount of daylight) over time. There are several tips from teachers that have used this in their classrooms with methods for younger students or struggling students. This can be used as a stand-alone activity or as part of the larger "Mystery Class" project linked to through this resource.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Upper Elementary
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 is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students can represent photoperiod of their hometown in a graph using sunrise and sunset times without calculating the photoperiod when using the graph found in the teacher tip section submitted by Deborah DeCoux. The site provides a link to a webpage that allows you to find sunrise and sunset times for your location. Another option would be to have students either calculate photoperiod and represent it graphically or teach them to use a spreadsheet to calculate and graph the photoperiods.

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
There are a variety of methods of calculating photoperiod and representing the data. Ideas and tips from other teachers can be found here; The site provides a link to a webpage that allows you to find sunrise and sunset times for your location.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
As students analyze their data and graph, they need to compare the data with the yearly seasons. Adding the calculation of the photoperiod for the fall equinox, winter solstice, spring equinox and summer solstice to mark the beginnings of each season will assist students in finding the seasonal changes differences in their data and graph.

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
Graphing the weekly photoperiod for a student’s hometown allows them to analyze the pattern for the year or school year. If you begin this process at the beginning of the school year, students can add to it all year and analyze it midyear and toward the end of the school year.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource provides instruction that builds towards the performance expectation. It explicitly addresses the practice and crosscutting concept in the PE. Graphing photoperiod builds toward the element of the core idea that rotation of the Earth about an axis between its North and South poles, cause observable patterns (day and night). The teacher needs to make the crosscutting concepts explicit as they are implicit in the materials.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource provides instructional supports in the tips section of the site. Several teachers have submitted strategies to assist students in calculating and graphing photoperiod. These are helpful to enrich student experiences or assist students in being successful. This section is difficult to find when using the site. It can be found here:

  • Monitoring Student Progress: There is no provision for monitoring student progress that I can find.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is no technological interactivity. Technology is used only when accessing the internet for sunrise and sunset times.