Exploratorium: Home

Chaperone Guide for Sun, Shadows, and Seasons (Grade 5)

Chaperone Guide for Sun, Shadows, and Seasons (Grade 5)

Background for Teachers

The chaperone guide is designed so that chaperones can help students build their understanding of the earth’s relationship to the sun through hands-on, minds-on experiences at exhibits in ways that correlate to the Next Generation Science Standards.

Which standard is addressed?
The standard is 5-ESS1 Space Systems: Earth and the Solar System.
Students who demonstrate understanding can:
Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and seasonal appearances of some stars in the night sky. (5-ESS1-2)

Note: Only highlighted parts of the standard are addressed at the exhibits. You can follow up with a playground activity in which students collect and graph data about shadows (see After-visit classroom discussions and resources). The students’ experiences at the exhibits will help them understand why the shadows change when they do the activity.

For more information about this standard, see the Next Generation Science Standards website.

What’s special about the exhibits?
The exhibits encourage students to slow down and carefully notice the apparent path of the sun across the sky at different times of day, at different times of the year, and at different latitudes. Additionally, the exhibits lend themselves to social learning experiences; at the exhibits students can ask questions, make observations, and discuss their ideas together.

What can be explored at the exhibits?
Three exhibits were selected to give students the opportunity to experience the sun, shadows, and seasons in a variety of ways.

  • At Sky Theater, students watch a time-lapse video of the path of the sun across the sky from the perspective of the Exploratorium. The video helps students visualize the path of the sun during the winter solstice, summer solstice, and spring/autumn equinoxes and concludes with a display of the three paths so that the students can compare them.
  • At Solar Motion Model, students explore the relationship between latitude and the time of year, and how this affects the length of a day (sunrise to sunset). At the model, they can test their ideas about what happens when they change the variables (latitude and time of year). They can also infer whether shadows would be long or short depending on the sun’s position above the horizon at any particular time.
  • At Oculus Table, students are encouraged to notice the position of the sun in the sky and use the exhibit as a tool for telling time.

    After-visit classroom discussions and resources
    During a class discussion, let volunteers describe what they saw happen at each exhibit. Then invite students to talk about or raise questions about similarities they noticed among the exhibits. As necessary, help them recognize the patterns that the exhibits help demonstrate: The amount of daylight and the apparent path of the sun in the sky change with the seasons; the path of the sun can be predicted because it follows a pattern during the course of a day and the course of a year. Ask how the sun’s position in the sky affects the length of a shadow, and encourage students to give examples of when there would be long or short shadows.

    Let students discuss anything they’re wondering about or are confused by. Help them brainstorm ways that they could explore their questions further.

    You can use Shadow Play—Activity One to accomplish the graphing part of the standard.

    For your chaperones
    Chaperone Guide for Sun, Shadows, and Seasons

    You should also provide your chaperones with our Chaperone Tips, which is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.