Crash Course Kids: Following the Sun

Crash Course Kids
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.



This explanatory video demonstrates how shadows change in direction and length as the sun's position changes in the sky.  A featured "investigation" illustrates this phenomena using an example of a lamppost shadow followed over the course of a day.  The video includes graphs for both length and directions of the lamppost shadows.

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-ESS1-2 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
Only the daily changes in length and direction of shadows are addressed in this video. This video would be best shown after students have collected their own shadow data in an activity like Shadow Tracing (see related resource). For students to meet this PE it is highly recommended students have hands-on experience collecting data with shadows and engage in scientific discourse around regarding their own results before viewing this resource. Other lessons or activities would need to address day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.

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
To more fully address the full element of the practice, students would obtain information from other media sources and combine their information using graphic organizers or other methods of recording information to demonstrate their own understanding.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The video models the different positions of the sun in the sky at different times of the day and how the sun's movement across the sky causes changes in shadow length and direction throughout the day. It refers the viewer to another video in the series, Earth’s Rotation and Revolution ( to connect this phenomena to the reason the sun changes position in the sky daily.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The video discusses the explanation that the changing pattern of the position of the sun in the sky is the cause of the changing pattern of length and direction of shadows.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: When viewing the video, students are using the practice of obtaining information about the sun’s position in the sky and the effect it has on shadow direction and length which is an element of the disciplinary core idea. Since there is a discussion of patterns, this video has incorporated all three dimensions in its explanation. If students engage in the investigation prior to viewing the video, it will enhance the real-world connection and provide the opportunity for students to make sense of changing shadows. The graphs in the video connect to the Common Core mathematics standards for measurement and data.

  • Instructional Supports: This video has no instructional supports. The video can be shown multiple times and/or paused periodically with instruction or discussion between pauses. Students might have already collected their own shadow data such as in the resource Shadow Tracing (see related resource) which connects to the information given in the video. Students may also write a reflection or use a graphic organizer to organize the video’s information.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This video has no method for monitoring student progress. That would come from teacher questioning or evaluating any written work done with the video in the form of a reflection or graphic organizer.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.