Harness their energy and curiosity as students begin to look beyond their own little worlds. Plan some demonstrations to increase their knowledge about the sun. This lesson can be done over a few days depending on your allotted time and whether days are sunny.
Identify evidence that the Sun is the natural source of heat and light on the Earth (e.g., warm surfaces, shadows, shade).
Curious George Discovers the Sun by Joe Fallon
- One piece of each of these colors of construction paper yellow, black, white, blue
- Ice Cubes
Gather students around you to find out what they know about the sun. Write major facts on the board as they are mentioned.
- Is the sun a star or a planet? star
- What does the sun give us? (heat and light)
- Can we live without the sun? (no)
- The sun is only a medium-sized star. Why does it seem so bright to us? (It’s so much closer than the other stars.)
- What are ways we can protect ourselves from sunburns? (Sun blocking lotion, hats, sunglasses, clothing. Also remember to drink water!)
Then, read and discuss Curious George Discovers the Sun, which focuses on solar energy and all the things that don’t work when there is a “black out". The book has sidebars with additional facts about the sun.
Demonstrations and Experiments
1. In the hot summer is it better to wear a light colored t-shirt or a dark colored shirt? Which one gets the hottest in direct sunlight?
- Place the construction paper outside in direct sunlight.
- Ask the students to guess which paper will become hot the fastest and melt the ice cubes.
- Place two ice cubes in the center of each piece of paper and observe.
- What did we learn? If we want to stay cooler in the summer what color clothing should we wear? We also see that the sun gives us heat.
2. Why don’t we see the sun at night? Does it go away?
- This can be done outside or in a large space inside.
- Choose a student to be the sun. You may want to give that student a big yellow piece of paper to make it more visual.
- Now choose a student to be the Earth and place the student a distance away.
- Explain that the earth moves in two ways. It spins once around every day and it moves around the sun in one year.
- Ask the “earth" student to face the sun. This is the daytime position. Then ask the student to turn around slowly stopping the student when his back faces the sun. Can he see the sun? What time of day would this be? What can we see now that we can’t see in the daytime? (Other stars)
3. Why is the earth in a perfect place in our solar system?
- On the playground or in a very large indoor space, position eight students in order away from the sun to represent the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune (Give them planet name cards to hold)
- “This is our solar system. All the planets move on an invisible path around the sun."
- Then ask “Why do you think there is no life on Venus and Mercury?" (Too hot) “What about the planets that are farther away than the earth?" (Too cold) “If one other planet had the best chance of having life which one could it be? (Mars)
4. Be a shadow puppet! How does your shadow change during the day?
- On a sunny day go outside at three different times early morning, noon and afternoon.
- How does the shadow change? When was it longest? Shortest? Which way did it point?
- Why does your shadow change? (The sun is in a different position in the sky each time.)