Soak Up the Sun


Jeff Wuebber

New Rochelle High School, Westchester

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2011



Subject:  Regents Earth Science

Grade Level: 9 - 12

Objectives: SWBAT


Duration:  The first observation in September will take approximately 30 minutes.  Each subsequent observation will take 15-20 minutes to complete.


Teacher Notes & Instruction: I start this lab before we have discussed how the Sun moves through the sky and why, so I introduce the lab by stating that we are going to be making observations of the Sun throughout the year.  As time goes on, before we go out for the next observation, I bring in what we’ve learned since the last observation to help understand the phenomena.  Before going outside, I also ask the class to predict if the shadow length will be the same length, longer, or shorter, and why. 

Because my students tend to forget the procedure from month to month, I model it right before we go out each time.  Groups of three tend to work best with one person holding the meter stick, one person holding the clipboard and being the recorder, and the last person making the observations on the ground. 

Back inside the classroom, after the materials have been collected, I ask the students to relate the angle of the Sun to the current season to explain why the weather is the way it is at that time.  Also, depending on what we’re learning in class at the time, I try to link it to that as well. 

This lab runs once a month for ten months.  I have found that my students are unable to hold onto the lab sheet from month to month, so I collect them and hold onto them until the next time we go outside next month.


Lab Activity:  Students will use the Soak Up the Sun lab sheet to make observations.  Students will use the Sun Soaked lab sheet in June to review all observations, synthesize their knowledge and prepare for the June Earth Science Regents exam.


New York State Earth Science Core Curriculum Alignment:   

Standard 1: Analysis, Inquiry, and Design

Scientific Inquiry

Key Idea 1: The central purpose of scientific inquiry is to develop explanations of natural phenomena in a continuing, creative process.

Key Idea 3: The observations made while testing proposed explanations, when analyzed using conventional and invented methods, provide new insights into phenomena.


Standard 4:  The Physical Setting

Key Idea 1: The Earth and celestial phenomena can be described by principles of relative motion and perspective.

Performance Indicator 1.1: Explain complex phenomena, such as tides, variations in day length, solar insolation, apparent motion of the planets, and annual traverse of the constellations.

Major Understanding 1.1a: Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion.


Standard 6: Interconnectedness: Common Themes

Patterns of Change

Key Idea 5: Identifying patterns of change is necessary for making predictions about future behavior and conditions.