Day and Night

Astronomical Society of the Pacific Educators, and childhood researchers at Penn State, UC Santa Cruz and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Model , Activity , Game
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 is an introductory activity in which students compare daytime and nighttime characteristics and activities.  Then, with teacher support, they model the Earth’s rotation with a globe and with their own bodies, to better understand the reasons for day and night.  This is one activity from the My Sky Tonight program.  

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Early Elementary
  • Grade 1
  • Pre-Kindergarten
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

1-ESS1-1 Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.

Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include that the sun and moon appear to rise in one part of the sky, move across the sky, and set; and stars other than our sun are visible at night but not during the day.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment of star patterns is limited to stars being seen at night and not during the day.

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
This is an introductory activity. To help meet the Performance Expectation care would need to be given to using the gained knowledge to make connections to the predictions that can be made. The activity can be used to dispel misconceptions about the movement of the earth in relation to the sun. Young elementary students often do not conceptualize the shape of the Sun and the Earth and they believe that the reason we have day and night is due to the up and down or place to place movement of the sun. It has also been found that just knowing that the earth rotates in space does not always make a connection to its effect to day and night on the earth in an elementary student’s mind. This activity helps to support making the connection in understanding.

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 fully meet the Practice, students should be encouraged to use the bears taped to the earth model and to view the images that are provided in the activity. This gives students a concrete model from which they can make observations, collect qualitative data as to when the bears are in the night and when they are in the day, and make comparisons. Teachers will want to include other forms of media (books, videos, etc.) to support the learning of day and night in the real world

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The activity allows the learner to engage in introductory knowledge-making by offering the learner many learning entry points including: kinesthetic, visual, musical, and auditory. The different experiences help the learner gain a deeper understanding of the Disciplinary Core Idea.

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
It is important for students to use the knowledge gained from the activity as evidence in the explanations about day and night patterns to fully meet the Crosscutting Concept.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity addresses all three dimensions of learning as defined by the NGSS. It meets the Performance Expectation for first grade, Disciplinary Core Idea, and Science and Engineering Practices by having students investigate daytime and nighttime through building a grade appropriate, sense-making of the phenomena. Care must be given to include more lessons that address the movement of the moon and the stars as well.

  • Instructional Supports: High quality pictures and other media of daytime and nighttime should be provided to enable students to connect their explanation of the phenomenon as it relates to their own experience. The activities are accessible to all learners with little adjustment. Since it is a guided activity, the teacher can utilize instructional supports when necessary and allow students to participate and respond at their own level.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The activity provides the teacher with direct, observable evidence of three-dimensional learning. Annotated notes could be kept during the activity and discussions. It does not provide quantitative measures of student progress. Development of an assessment or explanation rubric would enhance this resource. Students could also draw and label their understanding of day and night.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The video quality is high and scientifically accurate.