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Spinning Sky

Sun, Moon, & Stars

Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade

NGSS Standards covered: 1-ESS1-2 , 1-ESS1-1
In this unit, students observe that the Sun, Moon, and stars seem to move in patterns in the sky. The make observations of the Sun and shadows throughout the day and across the seasons. They also determine why stars are only visible at night. Less
  1. Lessons
  2. Activity Prep
  3. Assessments

Lesson 1: Sun, Shadows, & Daily Patterns

Moving Shadows

In this lesson, students investigate what it takes to make a stationary object’s shadow move. In the activity, Moving Shadows, students use flashlights and paper gnomes to explore how moving the position of a light makes shadows move. Students relate these observations to shadows changing throughout the day and the Sun’s position moving across the sky.

Number of students:
Paper Gnomes printout Print 1 copy
Shadow Patterns printout Print 1 copy
Blank Paper (8.5 x 11")
1 sheet
1 marker
Scotch Tape
Any tape will work.
1 roll
LED Flashlights
7 flashlights
Prep Instructions

You will need to do this activity in the dark with the lights off. We provide seven different Shadow Patterns, so we recommend setting up seven stations. You can choose to set up fewer stations depending on your space or the number of flashlights that you have available.

Set Up Activity Stations

For each station:

  • Cut out one of the paper gnomes. Fold on the solid lines at his feet and the tip of his hat.
  • Overlap the flaps at the gnome’s feet and tape him to the rectangle on one of the Shadow Patterns.
  • Tape the Shadow Pattern down to a table or desk.
  • Put a flashlight beside the gnome.

Find a Sunny Spot (Recommended)

If it’s sunny, you can watch how a shadow cast by the Sun changes over time—just by marking a shadow early in the lesson and checking on it later.

For this extension:

  • Cut out one paper gnome. Fold on the solid lines at his feet and the tip of his hat.
  • Overlap the flaps at the gnome’s feet and tape him to a blank sheet of paper.
  • Tape the blank sheet of paper down to a table or desk that will be in the Sun for the whole time you are teaching the lesson.
  • Outline the gnome’s shadow with a marker and write down the time in the center of the outline.

If it’s cloudy when you teach, don’t worry. We show the experiment in the video. You can watch the video and try the experiment yourself on a day when the Sun is out.

Read-Along Lesson 2: Sun, Shadows, & Daily Patterns

Trace Your Shadow

In this Read-Along lesson, Jada explores why her shadow changes over the course of a day at the beach. The lesson includes a short exercise where students act out the movement of shadows with their bodies. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Trace Your Shadow, where students trace their shadows using colored chalk and track the shadow’s changes throughout the day.

Number of students:
Colored Chalk
Recommend two different colors per pair of students.
30 sticks
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in pairs. Homeschool students will need a partner to help them trace their shadow.

You will need access to a playground or other area with a blacktop. This activity works best on a sunny day when students can clearly see their shadows.

Lesson 3: Sun & Daily Patterns

Sun Finder

In this lesson, students develop a model of the sun’s daily path across the sky, then use this model to help someone who’s lost. In the activity, Sun Finder, students create a mobile paper model of the sun and earth to illustrate the position of the sun throughout the day.

Number of students:
Sun Finder printout Print 30 copies
30 pairs
Three-Hole Punch
1 hole punch
Paper Fasteners
30 fasteners
Prep Instructions

Each student will make their own Sun Finder.

Prepare Sun Finder Templates

Fold the Sun Finder template in half, lengthwise. You can fold 5 at a time, if you like.

Put the folded edge in a 3-hole punch and punch the templates. You can work with multiple copies at a time — depending on what your 3-hole punch will accommodate.

It's okay if the hole in the rectangle with the sun on it doesn't quite match the circle printed on the page.

Read-Along Lesson 4: Daylight & Seasonal Patterns

Summer Sunshine Reader

In this Read-Along lesson, Arushi wonders why she has to go to bed while the sun is still up, and learns that the sun stays up longer on some days than others. The lesson includes a short exercise where students get moving by acting out a bedtime routine. If you want to extend the lesson, we provide a printable Summer Sunshine Reader that your students can color and use to practice their reading skills.

Number of students:
Summer Sunshine Reader (grayscale and color) worksheet 30 copies
Colored pencils will also work.
150 crayons
Prep Instructions

Print a reader for each student to read and staple at the corner. You can choose to print the black and white version for students to color or a version that's already in color.

Lesson 5: Stars & Daily Patterns

Star Projector

In this lesson, students use a model to investigate why the stars are visible at night but disappear when the Sun comes out during the day. In the activity, Star Projector, students use paper cups to project stars onto a sky picture, and observe what happens to these stars when a flashlight acts as a model of the Sun.

Number of students:
Big Dipper Star Pictures printout Print 3 copies
Sky Sheet printout Print 15 copies
30 pairs
Dot Stickers
We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom. Tape will also work.
30 stickers
Paper Cups (8 oz)
30 cups
Push Pins
30 pins
LED Flashlights
30 flashlights
Prep Instructions

You will need to do part of this activity in the dark with the lights off and curtains drawn.

We suggest students work in pairs. Homeschool students will need two flashlights and a partner to help with a few steps.

Prepare Big Dipper Star Pictures

Each printout has 12 Big Dipper pictures. Cut up enough Big Dipper sheets to provide each student with one star picture.

Set Up Activity Stations

Set up activity stations by posting Sky Sheets on walls that will be dark or dimly lit when you pull the shades and turn out the lights. We recommend that each pair of students works at an activity station. If classroom space is limited, we’ve found that one station can comfortably accommodate up to 8 students taking turns.

Read-Along Lesson 6: Stars & Seasonal Patterns

Where Is North?

In this Read-Along lesson, Ryan’s camping trip with his dad includes a night of stargazing, and a mystery to solve. The lesson includes a short exercise where students imagine what they might see looking through a telescope. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Where Is North?, that helps students learn the cardinal directions.

Number of students:
Blank Paper (8.5 x 11")
Used to make Cardinal Direction signs for the classroom. Recycled is fine.
4 sheets
1 globe
1 compass
Prep Instructions

We suggest an optional activity that helps students gain a better understanding of the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west).

For this activity, you will need to make four signs:

  • North
  • South
  • East
  • West

You will use these signs to label your classroom walls with the appropriate cardinal direction. To identify which sign goes where, you can use a compass or Google Maps.

Here’s how to identify the directions using Google Maps:

  1. Open Google Maps and enter your school’s street address.
  2. Zoom in on your school and look at the surrounding streets and landmarks.
  3. North is always up on Google Maps. Find a landmark that’s to the north of your school.
  4. Put North on the wall that’s closest to that landmark.
  5. Face North. Put West on the wall to your left, East on the wall to your right, and South on the wall behind you.