The Warmth of the Sun
Purpose: To help children broaden their understanding of the sun, particularly its critical role in warming the land, air, and water around us.
Context: At this early level, it is important for children to begin to take notice of the world around them and learn both the basic and broad concepts about the structure and key processes that make up the universe. In this lesson, children will take a closer look at the sun and begin to recognize its critical function in heating and warming the air, land, and water that sustain our lives. This will involve drawing their attention to the basics of the heart around them and how the sun is the primary source of that warmth. They will then perform a number of indoor and outdoor activities that support the benchmark, and help to begin their identification of the sun as the natural, universal source of heat in the world.
Planning Ahead: Several hours before the lesson, fill two pans with water, placing one in a shaded area and another outside in the sun. Note: for the best results, it is important to teach this lesson on a warm, sunny day.
Motivation: Spark children’s interest in the basic workings of heat by asking simple, thought-provoking questions like the ones below. Accept all reasonable answers and encourage children to speculate and elaborate on their responses.
- When you are cold, what kinds of things or activities help you to stay warm?
- What helps you to stay warm when you are indoors? Outdoors?
- Is it usually warmer during the day or night? Why?
Now that children have been led to discover the heating role of the sun, ask questions like these to help them develop their benchmark-based focus and better prepare them for the activities in the body of the lesson:
- What is the sun? Where is it? (To keep answers simple: The sun is a giant star that is about 4.5 billion years old. It is also the largest object in the solar system.)
- What kinds of things does the sun do? (Answers will vary. Among other things, the sun provides the earth and its inhabitants the light and heat they need to grow and survive.)
- What kinds of things does the sun allow you to do every day? (Answers will vary.)
Development: Continue the lesson by distributing the Warmth Chart. To aid in their comprehension, read over the chart carefully with the class explaining that they will go to three different areas–the classroom, the outside in the shade, and in the sun–and try to determine or feel the differences in warmth in each of the areas. To do this, they will need pencils and will have to circle the level of warmth in each area–cold, cool, warm, or hot.
Ask children these basic questions before they finally decide on what they believe is the relative warmth or coolness (temperature) of the room. For clarity, ask the same questions at each of the three indoor/outdoor areas.
- How warm or cold does it feel inside? In the shade? In the sun?
- Why do you think it is (cold/cool/warm/hot)?
- Is the heat of the sun helping to warm this area? Why or why not?
Encourage and accept all children’s responses so they can develop their ideas and awareness about heat variations in relation to the sun. When they hae finished expressing themselves, close each of the three area discussions with the following directive:
“Ok. Now it is time to circle the answer on the Warmth Chart that you feel is correction. Is the ________(inside/shade/sunshine) ______________ (cold/cool/warm/hot)?”
When the children have finished all three areas, take a few minutes–while everyone is still standing in the sun–to talk about final results. Ask them summarizing questions similar to these:
- How many of you thought the inside was the warmest?
- How many of you thought the shade was the coolest?
- How many of you thought being in the sun was the warmest?
- Were you surprised by any of your answers? Why?
(Accept all answers, but ask for support of their views with explanations.)
After taking time to field their responses, everyone should be warming up in the sun. As a way to transition into the water-pan, touch-and-test part of the lesson, draw children’s attention to the warmth feeling now by asking questions like these:
- Do you think the water in the pan is cold, cool, warm, or hot? Why?
- If I put this pan in the shade, do you think it would change the warmth of the water? Why or why not? How about if I took it inside?
(Accept all answers, but ask for support of their views with explanations)
When finished, have children touch the water one-by-one. (Make this activity as scientific as appropriate for children. This may involve letting more advance children use thermometers to gauge the degree of warmth or coolness of the water.) Then ask questions like these:
- How does the water feel? Are you surprised by the warmth of the water? Why or why not?
- Imagine that teh pan was filled with leaves or soil or even air. How do you think that would affect the warmth of those items? Why?
(Accept all answers, but asked for support of their views with explanations)
To address their own personal warming processes while standing in the sun, you may ask them questions like these before taking them back to the classroom:
- By the way, how are you feeling now? Are you warmer than you were an hour ago? Give minutes ago? Why or why not?
Once back inside, draw attention to the other pan of water. Ask them similar warmth-oriented questions as you had done outside. Also guage and ask them about their own personal cooling-off processes.
To better support the benchmark, be sure to draw further connections that–like the water and themselves–virtually anything that is taken out of the direct line of the sun will become cooler, whether it is cupcakes, backpacks, soil or air. Close the lesson by deliberately reinforcing how the sun warms the land, air, and water around us.
Assessment: Have children review what they have learned about the sun and it widespread warming effects. They should be able to see more clearly now just how poerful and criticla the sun is in warming people and virtually everything around us.
As part of this discussion and review, have children ponder and answer questions like these:
- What would life be like if there were no sun?
- In what ways do plants and animals count on the sun?
- Why do people go swimming in lakes an oceans in the summer? Why not the winter?
- Why do people need air conditioners? What is life like for those who do not have or use them?