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Smiling in the Sun

Sun science is the focus as students explore the Earth's rotation and revolution, the seasons, as well as night and day.

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Explore the concept of the Earth's rotation. Using resources gathered for this lesson, students work in pairs to investigate how the position of the sun varies with the Earth's rotation. Prior to beginning research time, ask the class to propose focus questions for the investigation. Each pair of students will be responsible for keeping written records of their research findings.
    2. Once team investigations are complete, each team will conduct an experiment. Begin with one member of the team holding a flashlight (the sun) and the other slowly rotating a large ball (Earth) with a small sticker on it. Challenge students to figure out whether it is day or night where the sticker is, based on the position of the sun in relationship to Earth.
    3. Ask student teams to draw a 24-hour time line on roll paper with Crayola® Washable Markers. For each hour, decide whether it is day or night where you live, and what might be doing as the day goes on in summer and then in winter. How does the season affect whether it is light or dark during certain hours?
    4. Student teams choose a time of day. Students paint themselves at self-chosen time of day in the appropriate clothing and activity for the season on white paper. Where will the sun (or moon) be in the painting? Use Crayola® Washable Paint and paint brushes. Mix small amounts of paint on paper plates to experiment with blending colors. All paintings to air-dry overnight.
    5. Prior to displaying student paintings in 24-hour order in a hallway gallery, ask them to write a brief description of their artwork identifying the time of day illustrated. Students share observations about their paintings and subjects with classmates and visitors.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

    LA: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

    SCI: Provide evidence that Earth is spherical and the gravitational force of the Earth causes objects near the surface to be pulled toward the planet’s center.

    SCI: Use a model of a rotating, spherical Earth and the relative positions of the sun and moon to explain patterns in daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the phases of the moon.

    VA: Select media, techniques, an processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: On Earth by G. Brian Karas; Come See the Earth Turn by Lori Mortensen; Earth's Journey Through Space by Trudy E. Bell; Earth is Tilting! by Conrad J. Storad

    Encourage students to expand their investigation into weather patterns. Students sketch illustrations of various types of weather. Gather weather reports and pictures of weather-related events from newspapers. Create a list of vocabulary terms related to weather.

    Students create a calendar documenting weather observed in a given period of time. Provide illustrations of the daily weather. Using what has been observed, students attempt to make predictions of weather patterns

    Students select a favorite landscape painting. Study the painting carefully and note the details in the piece. Students attempt to replicate the painting in a different weather setting. How does this change the picture?


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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