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Building Blocks of Science® A New Generation: Sky Watchers

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Grade 1. The Sky Watchers Unit Kit includes a Teacher’s Guide and enough supplies and apparatus for a class of up to 24 students. In the unit, students observe the Sun, Earth, Moon, and planets, describe the sky, and use models to investigate Earth’s movement and position in space. Students investigate the effects of the Sun’s light and heat on Earth, the path of a shadow, and temperatures in sun and shade. Students identify the monthly pattern of the Moon’s phases and build a solar system model.

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Grade 1. The Sky Watchers Unit Kit includes a Teacher’s Guide and enough supplies and apparatus for a class of up to 24 students. During the unit, students directly observe the Sun, Earth, Moon, and solar system. Students describe the differences between the daytime and nighttime skies, then use models and demonstrations to investigate Earth’s rotation on its axis, its revolution around the Sun, and its tilt relative to the Sun. They experiment to explore the effects of the Sun’s light and heat on Earth, trace the path of a shadow, and compare temperatures in sunlight and shade. Students study the Moon and identify the monthly pattern of its phases. Finally, they synthesize information about the planets and their relative size to construct their own solar system models.

The Sky Watchers unit addresses the following standards:
Next Generation Science Standards
Disciplinary Core Ideas
ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars
ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Developing and Using Models

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns

Common Core State Standards
Language Arts

L.1.5b, c
W.1.5a, c

American Association for the Advancement of Science Benchmarks
The Physical Setting: The Universe

  • The sun can only be seen during the daytime, but the moon can be seen at night and sometimes during the day.
  • The moon appears a little different every day, but looks the same again about every four weeks.

The Physical Setting: Energy Transformations

  • The sun warms the land, air, and water.

The Physical Setting: Motion

  • Things move in many different ways.

The Mathematical World: Symbolic Relationships

  • Similar patterns may show up in many places in nature.

Common Themes: Systems

  • Most things are made of parts.

Common Themes: Models

  • A model of something is different from the real thing but can be used to learn something about the real thing.
  • One way to describe something is to say how it is like something else.

Common Themes: Constancy and Change

  • Things change in some ways and stay the same in other ways.
  • Things can change in different ways, such as in size, color, and movement.
  • Some changes are so slow or so fast that they are hard to see.

Common Themes: Scale

  • Things in nature have very different sizes and speeds.

Habits of Mind: Manipulation and Observation

  • Assemble, describe, take apart, and reassemble constructions.
  • Measure the length in whole units of objects.

Habits of Mind: Communication Skills

  • Describe and compare things in terms of number, shape, size, color, and motion.
  • Draw pictures that correctly portray at least some features of the thing being described.

Lesson-by-Lesson Summary
Lesson 1: What Can We See in the Sky?

Students begin observing and discussing what they already know about Earth and objects that they see in the sky, including the Sun, the Moon, and the planets. Students then make direct observations of objects in day and night skies, and use those observations to compare and contrast the similarities and differences.

Lesson 2: Rotating Day and Night
Students begin building an understanding of a series of earth science concepts. Using models and participating in active demonstrations, they come to discover that Earth’s rotation on its axis is the cause of day and night. Students focus on making direct observations of predictable patterns, specifically the concept of day and night.

Lesson 3: Revolution and the Seasons
Students demonstrate Earth’s revolution around the Sun using string and Earth models. They expand on the concepts of rotation and revolution in an outdoor session in which they use chalk and active movement to map the solar system and show the movement of the Sun and Earth within it.

During this lesson, students confront the misconception that seasons result from the distance between Earth and the Sun. Students use their Earth model and a light source to begin to explore the tilt of Earth on its axis and how this tilt (relative to the Sun) results in seasonal differences. Students discuss how seasons such as summer and winter are related to how their relative location faces more or less directly into the Sun’s rays, resulting in more or less light and heat. Student activity sheets, science notebooking, discussion, directed motion, and a song about the tilt of Earth on its axis are available as assessment tools.

Lesson 4: Shadows and the Sun
Students analyze shadows to learn more about two important effects the Sun has on Earth: heat and light. They set up a sphere model outdoors in a sunny area and record and analyze a shadow’s position and movement over a period of time. After analyzing the data, students discuss how the Sun’s position and motion appear to change over the course of a day’s time due to the rotation of Earth.

Students then set up an experiment to compare temperatures in direct sunlight and in shaded areas. They use thermometers to gather temperature data in order to conclude that the Sun’s rays heat Earth.

Lesson 5: The Moon and Its Patterns
Students are introduced to the phases of the Moon. Through direct observation, students analyze the repeating patterns of the Moon’s phases. This lesson compares and contrasts the full and new moons, and discusses the illumination of the Moon and its connection with the four main moon phases. Students also review the concepts of rotation and revolution as they begin to understand how the Moon moves relative to Earth and the Sun. Students integrate movement education through active demonstrations to represent the Sun-Earth-Moon system using student models. A Family Science Activity provides an opportunity for families to record direct observations of the Moon together using a home Moon Journal.

Lesson 6: Our Place in Space: The Planets
In a series of three activities, students use a variety of materials to learn more about the Sun, the planets, and the Moon, and how all these parts work together to form the solar system. Students observe photos to determine that planets differ in size and characteristics, and that they all orbit the Sun. Students read for more information about the size, composition, and features of the planets, then determine their sequential order from the Sun. Working in cooperative groups, students synthesize information and construct a model of the solar system.

Finally, students explore the relative sizes of the planets through movement, interactive modeling, and estimation in order to relate to the vast sizes of the planets and their individual distances from the Sun.

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