Cooler in the Shadows

Science NetLinks
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Demonstration , Experiment/Lab Activity , Activity
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.



This lesson includes several activities where students observe, explore, and analyze shadows. Students will make inferences about the cause of shadows, The lesson is linked to NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft in its voyage to and around Mercury. This lesson is designed to last 4 or more days. There are four different activities within the lesson. The teacher will need to gather some materials prior to beginning the lesson.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 2
  • Grade 1
  • Kindergarten
  • Early Elementary
  • Elementary School
  • Pre-Kindergarten
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

K-PS3-1 Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface.

Clarification Statement: Examples of Earth’s surface could include sand, soil, rocks, and water

Assessment Boundary: Assessment of temperature is limited to relative measures such as warmer/cooler.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In Activity 1, students make, observe, and record shadows. To learn how the sun's movement across the sky effects shadows, students should engage in the activity at regular times over a number of days.

Science and Engineering Practices

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
The data kept by drawing shadows should be shared with the whole class. Kindergarten students will need help with any written observations.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
By doing the activities in this lesson students will learn how shadows are created. The 4th activity may be difficult for kindergarten students to comprehend fully.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Class discussion could include the relationship between size, shape, and position of students’ shadows and time of day in which they were observed.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The three dimensions work together to support students to make sense of phenomena to allow for full alignment to NGSS.

  • Instructional Supports: Several hands-on activities are included in the lesson that provide opportunities for students to express, clarify, justify, interpret, and represent their ideas. The resource provides opportunities for peer discussion and oral/written teacher feedback to support student’s three-dimensional learning.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Assessment and discussion questions are included in the lesson plan.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: No special technology is needed to complete this lesson.