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Motions of the Sun Lab

University of Nebraska Astronomy Applet Project, Astronomy Education at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln

This Motions of the Sun Lab is an interactive applet from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Astronomy Applet project.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 5 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Axial tilt of Earth governs incoming sunlight and seasonality
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1c

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

About the Science

  • The NAAP Motions of the Sun Lab uses an animated simulator, along with student guide and background information, to enable students to manipulate variables–including time of day, day of year, and observer's latitude–to understand the apparent motion of the sun in the sky.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Applications are cool, allow for some nice visualization of how an observer's view of the sun path changes and the differences between sidereal and solar time. Without a primer on the celestial coordinate system I fear a student could be a little lost.

About the Pedagogy

  • Several similar NAAP labs (Basic Coordinates and Seasons Lab and The Rotating Sky Lab) precede this activity, but with sufficient student background knowledge, it can be used as a stand-alone.
  • Instructor's page for this activity is at http://astro.unl.edu/naap/motion3/motion3_i.html, along with pre- and post- questionnaires.
  • Very well designed and user-friendly.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Simulator is interesting and draws the player in to figure out how to manipulate the variables. Easy to work with - needs a bit of content support.
  • Requires Adobe Flash Player.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-ESS1-1:Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS1.A1:Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models.

MS-ESS1.B2:This model of the solar system can explain eclipses of the sun and the moon. Earth’s spin axis is fixed in direction over the short-term but tilted relative to its orbit around the sun. The seasons are a result of that tilt and are caused by the differential intensity of sunlight on different areas of Earth across the year.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Systems and System Models, Structure and Function, Patterns, Scale, Proportion and Quantity

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C3.1:Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

MS-C3.3: Proportional relationships (e.g., speed as the ratio of distance traveled to time taken) among different types of quantities provide information about the magnitude of properties and processes.

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C6.1:Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function.

Science and Engineering Practices: 5

Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

MS-P2.5:Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

MS-P4.2:Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

MS-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

MS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and/or through oral presentations.

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ESS1-4: Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Systems and System Models, Stability and Change

HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C3.2: Some systems can only be studied indirectly as they are too small, too large, too fast, or too slow to observe directly.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C7.1:Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.2:ask questions that arise from examining models or a theory, to clarify and/or seek additional information and relationships.

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P5.1:Create and/or revise a computational model or simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system.

HS-P6.2:Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

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