the Sun for a Day
Creating an Earth/Sun Model
Students create a simple model of the Earth and sun as seen from space.
They use it to explore the sun's apparent movement across the sky over
the course of a day. They begin to understand that the sun appears to
move west, but that it is the Earth's rotation toward the east that causes
this phenomenon. This lays the groundwork for understanding Mystery Class
1 period, then a few minutes each hour through the day
clear 2-quart bowl, large sheet of white paper taped to a piece
of cardboard or other rigid item, sharp pencil, erasable marker,
compass, crayons or colored pencils
Plan to conduct this on a sunny dry day.
to imagine they are far out in space and can see the Earth and our sun.
Ask, What would you expect to see happening and why? Make four different
drawings, to show what you'd see during a day. Once students have
completed this, ask, What questions do you have? Save these
for students to revisit during and after this activity.
for larger image.
an X in the center of the paper to represent our Earth.
the materials outside. Find a level surface for the paper. Make sure
the location receives sunlight all day.
the bowl upside down on the paper. Ask students to imagine it's our
atmosphere. Mark an x on the center of the bottom of the bowl with
the overhead marker. Make sure the x on the paper is lined up under
the x on the bowl. Trace the edge of the bowl onto the paper to make
it easier to line up.
students use a compass to determine North for your location. Once
they've reached consensus, they should mark North on the paper and
hour, have a student touch the side of the clear bowl with the tip
of the pencil so the shadow of the pencil's tip falls on the X on
the paper. Have a partner make a dot on that spot with the marker.
(Putting a number beside each dot will help students recall the order
in which they made observations.) After each dot goes on, ask, Where
do you predict the next dot will be? Explain your thinking. Which
direction does the sun appear to be moving?
Note: To get accurate results, the bowl must sit in the same
location and be lined up in the same way for each hourly reading.
Connections — Discussion and Journaling Questions
patterns did you notice over the course of the day?
would you explain them?
general statement(s) could you make about the daily movements of the
sun and Earth?
questions do you still have?
Over the course of a day, the sun will appear
to be moving west. But students' earlier explorations should
have revealed that the sun does not move. Rather, it is
the Earth's rotation counterclockwise (toward the east)
that makes the sun appear to move west. (Click for large
The Living Earth® image is a composite of Earth satellite
imagery developed by The Living Earth, Inc.
Earth and Moon Viewer
have completed the exploration, ask them to revise the drawings they
made during Laying the Groundwork. They can either create new ones or
use another color to make changes. Their responses to the discussion
and journaling questions along with the changes in their drawings should
reveal an enhanced understanding of the daily Sun-Earth relationship.
Also see these assessment tasks.