All About the Sun: Sun and Stars

Susanne Ashby
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
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 resource is a packet of supplementary curriculum materials for grades 2-4 developed by the Stanford SOLAR (Solar On-Line Activity Resources) Center in conjunction with NASA and the Learning Technologies Channel.  This evaluation refers to the activity “Sizing Up the Stars” which uses a model to demonstrate how the apparent size of equal size objects is different when placed at different distances from the observer.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

5-ESS1-1 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 appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The activity “Sizing up the Stars” uses a model for student observation of differences in apparent size of equal sized objects due to distances from the observer. More observation would need to be done by students to also show how this would affect brightness of light. The Disciplinary Core Idea associated with this Performance Expectation includes the size of the sun and other stars as well as brightness. Question #10 on the student pages for this activity goes beyond the assessment boundary. The teacher might choose to eliminate that question.

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
This activity in the lesson guides students through using same and different sized round objects to model the apparent differences in size of these objects due to distance. It does not address brightness, only size. To better address the phenomena one might consider getting several different light sources of different sizes and brightness and ask students to follow similar instructions provided to explore how the brightness of these objects changes with distance.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This activity in the lesson is designed to get students to observe that two objects of equal size can appear to be of different sizes when placed at a greater or lesser distance from the observer. This is intended to assist students in visualizing that because Earth is so much closer to the sun than to any other star, the sun appears much larger. Pages 18-20 guides students through the exploration using round objects and questions lead to an explanation for the apparent difference in sizes of stars as viewed from earth due to distance. It does not address brightness, only size. In addition, it does not address the varying distances of stars from Earth.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
There is an apparent size difference in the two objects being observed, but a real difference in distance of the two objects. Comparing and contrasting the size and distances of these objects is the focus of the activity. Note: The Crosscutting Concept listed here on the Hub is incomplete and should include, "Natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large" for which this crosscutting concept is explicitly addressed through this activity.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson is not intentionally three dimensional, but all three dimensions can be pulled out. The practice and crosscutting concept are not explicit, but can be emphasized by the instructor.

  • Instructional Supports: The Sizing up the Stars Exploration is guided by the worksheet instructions. It does not engage students in a phenomenon prior to exploring. It also does not provide for students to engage in discourse while exploring. Everything students are doing is written on the worksheet. The teacher can use strategies to engage students in argument and explanation.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: There are no provisions for specifically monitoring student progress. A teacher can use the worksheets provided or other methods of students recording data to keep track of student thinking and progress towards understanding.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This is a pdf lesson sequence of activities around the sun and uses no technology.