ALEX Lesson Plan


The Changing Sun

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Kelsey Luce
System: Albertville City
School: Albertville Primary School
Author:Angela Lynn
System: Jasper City
School: Memorial Park Elementary School
The event this resource created for:NASA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34192


The Changing Sun


Students will observe the changes of the sun over the course of a day and then over a 4 month period. Students will document these changes and then graph them. Finally, students will see the relationship between the patterns of the sun and the effect the pattern has on our daily lives. 

This lesson was created as part of the 2016 NASA STEM Standards of Practice Project, a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
MA2015 (2016)
Grade: 1
17 ) Tell and write time in hours and half-hours using analog and digital clocks. [1-MD3]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
M.AAS.1.17- Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of time using words such as yesterday, today, tomorrow, morning, afternoon, day, and night; identify activities that come before, next, and after on a daily schedule using a clock limited to time in hours.

MA2015 (2016)
Grade: 1
18 ) Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another. [1-MD4]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
M.AAS.1.18- Sort objects or pictures into common categories (e.g., shapes, pets, fruits; limited to two categories and a combined total of 15 objects/pictures for the categories).

SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 1
9 ) Observe seasonal patterns of sunrise and sunset to describe the relationship between the number of hours of daylight and the time of year (e.g., more hours of daylight during summer as compared to winter).

Insight Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Planning and Carrying out Investigations
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth's Place in the Universe
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Make observations, firsthand or from media, to collect data and use it to describe the relationship between the number of hours of daylight and the time of the year.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • observe
  • seasonal
  • patterns
  • sunrise
  • sunset
  • describes
  • relationship
  • hours
  • daylight
  • year
Students know:
  • There is a relationship between the relative length of the day and the season of the year.
Students are able to:
    Students understand that:
    • Seasonal patterns of sunrise and sunset can be observed, described and predicted.
    AMSTI Resources:
    AMSTI Module:
    Sound and Light, Foss
    Sundial, GLOBE
    Sky, Delta

    NAEP Framework
    NAEP Statement::
    E4.1: Objects in the sky have patterns of movement. The Sun, for example, appears to move across the sky in the same way every day, but its path changes slowly over the seasons. The Moon appears to move across the sky on a daily basis much like the Sun.

    NAEP Statement::
    E4.2: The observable shape of the Moon changes from day to day in a cycle that lasts about a month.

    NAEP Statement::
    E4.8: Weather changes from day to day and during the seasons.

    NAEP Statement::
    E4.9: Scientists use tools for observing, recording, and predicting weather changes from day to day and during the seasons.

    Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
    AAS Standard:
    SCI.AAS.1.9- Identify the four seasons of the year in Alabama using common representations.

    Local/National Standards:


    Primary Learning Objective(s):

    At the end of the lesson, students will be able to answer the following questions:

    How does the position of the sun change throughout the day and year?

    How does the length of the day change as the year goes on?

    Additional Learning Objective(s):

    The students will be able to practice their use of telling time to the hour and half hour. 

    The students will be able to graph their findings as observed over the time period. 

     Preparation Information 

    Total Duration:

    Greater than 120 Minutes

    Materials and Resources:





    Handout 1

    Access to a Sunny Sidewalk 

    Chart Paper (to use for graphing sunset and sunrise time)



    Technology Resources Needed:


    Document Camera

    Internet Access



    -Knowledge of the patterns of the sun

    -Basic computer skills (including but not limited to knowledge of a processing software, presentation manufacturing software, etc., working knowledge of how to search using the internet). 

    -Pre-made chart of sunset and sunrise times of two different days of the year in two different seasons. Teacher may include a picture of the season of each of the days that are charted. An example has been included as "Teacher Chart Example". 


    Day 1:

    Pairs of students will go outside to a sunny area. Partner 1 will stand on sidewalk while partner 2 traces his or her shadow. Then they will switch and repeat the steps.

    Students will be given handout 1. They will go back outside in 4 hours and record how their shadow has moved by coloring in how far their shadow is over their shape, and the time that they recorded it. The teacher may guide this and tell the students what time they should put next to their shadow. 

    The teacher will discuss sunrise and sunset with the whole group. During the discussion, the teacher will highlight the differences in time during the seasons using their remade chart. 

    The teacher will create a graph and record the time of sunrise that day.

    Days 2-8

    The class will repeat the previous steps once a week every two weeks for the next month. Make sure to do it at the same two times during the day. Be sure to have students make a new chart of their own shadow changes using "Handout 1". Help students keep these in a folder for comparison at a later date. 

    The teacher will continue to document the time of sunrise each day.

    Each time they will discuss how the time of sunrise effects the movement of their shadow.

    Last Day:

    Students will view the completed chart that the teacher has created and compare it to their completed handouts from the previous activities that have already been completed. The teacher should be sure to point out the relationship between their changing shadows (housed in their folders) and the sunrise times. 

    **Some files will display in a new window. Others will prompt you to download.

    Assessment Strategies

    Informal Assessments (teacher observation, in class questioning such as "What happened to the shadow?" or "What direction is the sun moving?")

    After the progression has become evident to students (i.e. the students are able to identify that the sun is moving and what direction it is moving in), use the file loaded as "Assessment 1". Directions and an answer key are included in the assessment file. 

    NOTE: A good time for the final assessment is after students have completed many different recordings of "Handout 1" and placed them in their own individual folders.  


    Students may use online weather websites such as to look up the sunrise and sunset times for the days and create their own chart similar to that of the teachers.

    Additionally, you can demonstrate how the length of shadows changes using this site:


    These students may go out every two hours throughout day 1 to see a more immediate change in their shadow instead of a gradual change.

    The teacher can extend the activity over a longer period of time. 


    View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.