To observe and describe what the sky looks like at different times; to identify objects in the sky and recognize changes over time; to look for objects that are common to the daytime and nighttime sky.
This lesson is part of a four-lesson series in which students observe the daytime and nighttime sky regularly to identify sequences of changes and to look for patterns in these changes. At the K-2 level, learning about objects in the sky should be entirely observational and qualitative. The priority is to get students noticing and describing what objects in the sky look like at different times. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 62.)
The sun, moon, stars, clouds, birds, and airplanes all have properties, locations, and movements that can be observed and described. Ideally, students should engage in direct observation of both the daytime and nighttime sky throughout this lesson series. However, the recommended Internet resources can be helpful to enhance student experiences, or if opportunities for direct observation are limited. This investigation requires that observations be ongoing, so that students can look for patterns over time. As children become more familiar with objects in the sky, they can be guided to observe changes, such as night and day and the seasons.
In this first lesson, students will investigate objects in the daytime and nighttime sky. This investigation should be confined to observations, descriptions, and finding patterns. Attempting to extend this understanding into explanations using models will be limited by the inability of young children to understand that earth is approximately spherical. Children at this age also have little understanding of gravity and usually have misconceptions about the properties of light that allow us to see objects such as the moon. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 336.) Thus, these topics should be avoided.
In Sky 2: Shadows, students explore making shadows and tracking the movement of an object over the course of a day.
In Sky 3: Modeling Shadows, students construct models to demonstrate their understanding of shadows.
Sky 4: The Moon has students drawing the moon's shape for each evening on a calendar and then determining the pattern in the shapes over several weeks.
This lesson involves the observation of daytime and nighttime sky. It is important to remind students of the danger of looking directly at the sun.
Do a brainstorming activity with students using a prompt like: "Words that come to mind when I think of the sky." You can choose to have students write these words individually, or you can record the group's thoughts at the front of the room, or students can simply call out the words with no recording.
Have students go outside to observe the daytime sky, reminding them of the danger of looking directly at the sun. You can take advantage of the opportunity to discuss the importance of detailed observations, and continue to encourage these once back inside.
- What objects do you see?
- Are any of these objects moving? Describe how they are moving.
- Which of these objects do you think you would be able to see at night?
Have students create a journal page, documenting their observations in words and pictures. The Science NetLinks student sheet Daytime Sky is available for this purpose. Allow students ample time to share their illustrations, or bind them into a class book to read aloud and leave in the classroom library. Lead students in a discussion of how they think the sky's objects will change over time.
- What do you think will still be in the sky tonight?
- What do you think will still be in the sky tomorrow?
Have students complete a follow-up activity at home, this time documenting objects in the evening or nighttime sky. Again, have students complete a journal entry based on their observations. You may wish to have students use the Science NetLinks student sheet Nighttime Sky. Allow students ample time to discuss their findings, noting differences due to times at which they observed the sky. Discuss which objects were seen in both the daytime and nighttime sky. This could be repeated for several days, encouraging students to realize constancy and change. For example, take the students outside at different times, in different conditions, etc. Have students draw pictures of objects overhead relative to objects on the ground.
In order to summarize Objects in the Sky, as well as make the distinction between daytime and nighttime objects, have students complete the Science NetLinks assessment sheet What Objects Do You See in the Sky? Here, students are asked to draw, and if appropriate label, objects that might be seen in the daytime or nighttime sky. Also, students can revisit the list generated in the Motivation exercise and modify the words that come to mind when they think of the sky. They can include the names of various objects in the sky, as well as some descriptive characteristics.
Follow this lesson with the other lessons in the Sky series.