“Teaching about Astronomy–Models of earth-Sun Interactions”

by | Jul 31, 2023 | Uncategorized

LDEO NGSS Summer Institutes: “Teaching about Astronomy” (GED 7214)

Lesson 3: Models of Earth-Sun Interactions

Expect Time Required: 3 – 4 hr

Submitted by:                                                                                   Date:                                     Time Needed:


Selected NGSS Connections:

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
 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.
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. [Clarification Statement: Examples of models can be physical, graphical, or conceptual.]

Selected PS/ES Core Curriculum Standards
1.1a Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion
> These motions explain such phenomena as the day, year, seasons, phases of the Moon, eclipses, and tides.

1.1c  Earth’s coordinate system of latitude and longitude, with the equator and the prime meridian as reference lines, is based upon Earth’s rotation and our observation of the Sun and stars.

1.1d  Earth rotates on an imaginary axis at a rate of 15 degrees per hour.  To people on Earth, this turning of the planet makes it seem as though the Sun, Moon, and stars are moving around Earth once a day.  Rotation provides a basis for our system of local time. Meridians of longitude are the basis for time zones.

1.1e  The Foucault pendulum and the Coriolis effect provide evidence of Earth’s rotation.

1.1f  Earth’s changing position with regard to the Sun and Moon has noticeable effects.
>Earth revolves around the Sun with its rotational axis tilted at 23.5 degrees to a line perpendicular to the plane of its orbit, with the North Pole aligned with Polaris.
>During Earth’s one-year period of revolution, the tilt of its axis results in changes in the angle of incidence of the Sun’s rays at a given latitude. These changes cause variations in the heating of the surface.  This produces seasonal variation in weather.

General Note:
You should first read through all of the information below and then go back to examine the linked activities. These are presented as examples for designing you own classroom plans, not rigid guidelines to follow exactly. If you do create your own activities and wish me to provide feedback, please send them.

Earth-Sun Interactions
Two basic motions explain Earth-Sun interactions: “rotation” about Earth’s axis creates day-night patterns and “revolution” around the Sun creates seasonal patterns.

Begin this Lesson by reviewing basic questions about “Earth’s Motions”:

Response: What other question(s) could be asked?

You may wish to follow up on this by having students create daily logs recording weather, Sun and Moon patterns:
Such personal recording provides many important skills about monitoring Earth processes and sharing data with colleagues. This can become your daily ‘do-now’ as the class begins or an ongoing ‘lab assignment.’

Response: Your comments about this activity?

Students can also use online databases to learn more about the patterns through investigations such as: http://earth2class.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/sunrise_sunset_activity-1.pdf

Response: Your comments about this activity?

Modeling Earth-Sun Motions
There are many ways to model Earth-Sun motions. These can range from a simple globe and lamp activity to determine the direction of rotation to a multistep activity investigating the apparent path of the Sun across the sky in different seasons: http://earth2class.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Sunpath-models.pdf

Response: Your comments about this activity?

Changes resulting from Earth’s revolution around the Sun can also be investigated through use of simple models. Most scientific supply companies can provide the plastic hemispheres and related materials needed for these activities.



Response: Your comments about this activity?

These concepts can be reinforced by asking students to draw representations of the relationships between the Sun and Earth:

Response: Your comments about this activity?

One good way to assess student comprehension is to have them write explanations about important concepts. Here is an example of what students could be asked: http://earth2class.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/unit_questions.pdf

Response: Your comments about this activity?

Exploring Related NASA resources

Go to www.nasa.gov. Use the “Solar System and Beyond” pull-down menu to find more information about the Sun.

Response: What are some ways to incorporate these resources into your lesson plans?

List 2 – 3 other NASA websites that you would like to use to create lessons for your students, with reasons why they would be useful.

Identifying RES Test Items pertinent to this topic

Select one or more recent Regents Earth Science exams (http://www.nysedregents.org/EarthScience/).

Find 6 items that assess understanding of earth-Sun interactions. If possible, find both multiple-choice and constructed-response items.

Complete the table below to identify them by Year-Number and explain what students need to know and/or do to provide a correct response.