Top Image: Free-Photos - Pixabay

Setting the Stage

Image of sunrise in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut
Source: Photo by Scott Taylor

Cycles are an important concept in many disciplines. In this inquiry, the familiar cycle of day and night provides a context for students to compare and contrast daily routines at home, at school and in their communities. It also provides opportunities for building understanding of the cross-curricular idea of “cycles”.

This inquiry could begin from:

  • questions and/or comments arising from the students about observed changes in their environment. Discuss using questions such as:
    • “When you look at the sky in the daytime, what do you see? What do you see at night?”
    • “What do you notice about where the Sun is when you get up, when you go out at lunchtime, when you go home at the end of the day?”
  • Cover image from the book Sun Up, Sun Down: The Story of Day and Night by Jacqui Bailey
    Source: Open Library

  • a collection of day and night pictures, words and symbols. Discuss using questions such as:
    • “You saw the card with the word ‘cycle’ on it. What do you think of when you see the word ‘cycle’? Why would that word be with these pictures of the Sun and the Moon?”
    • “What does a cycle remind you of? (e.g., a pattern in mathematics)
  • reading a book such as Sun Up, Sun Down: The Story of Day and Night. Discuss using questions such as:
    • (Using a globe) “Here is where we live. When we are seeing the Sun, what do you think people on the other side of the world are seeing? Why do you think that?”

Materials and Preparation (Click to Expand)

Image of students exploring the Earth’s rotation with a flashlight
Source: vgajic, iStock

Materials

  • A collection of day and night pictures, words and symbols
  • A variety of sorting mats
  • Hoops or yarn for Venn diagrams, Venn diagram drawn on chart paper
  • Flashlights
  • Thermometers (marked or unmarked)

Preparation:

Diagram showing how the Earth’s rotation on its axis causes day and night
Source: StarChild

  • Think about a learning strategy such as Sorting Mats to support students’ development of the skill of sorting and classifying. See examples here.
  • Find out how the Earth’s rotation on its axis causes day and night.

What to Do

Students learn about and apply the skills of Observing, Sorting & Classifying and Comparing & Contrasting as they learn about the cycle of day and night.

Image of student shining flashlight on globe
Source: photo by Stephen Lippa

Students:

  • explore the picture, word and symbol cards individually and/or in small groups.
    • Educator observes and documents, including students’ questions and wonderings for use in the development of further learning through inquiry.
  • make and record observations about the position of the Sun at different times of day.
  • brainstorm what happens to the Sun at night.
  • make and record observations about the position of the Sun at different times of day.
    • Educator facilitates and then allows students to explore independently.
  • describe, in pictures and words, what life on Earth would be like without the cycle of day and night.

Assessment

Image of students using a sundial to measure the movement of the Sun
Source: photo by Stephen Lippa

Observe and document, using anecdotal comments, photos and/or video recordings, student’s ability to:

  • Sort – students sort pictures on the basis of a common attribute
  • Classify – students classify objects according to self-determined and given criteria and describe the criteria
  • Classify – students classify pictures according to multiple attributes
  • Compare & Contrast – students identify similarities and differences between day and night
  • Observe and Record – students determine an appropriate method to record their observations of the position of the Sun at different times during the day
  • Communicate – students identify the Sun as the principal source of Heat and light on Earth and describe what life would be like where they live without the cycle of day and night

Co-constructing Learning

Students:
Saying, Doing, Representing

Educator:
Interactions: Responding, Challenging

Students sort and classify pictures, words, and symbols related to day and night and identify patterns in day and night.

  • “I notice that you used a T-chart to sort the pictures. What can you tell me about the pictures on this side?”
  • “What is day? What is night? What patterns do you notice in days and nights? How would you describe those patterns? What other patterns do you know that are the same?”
  • “What are some other ways you can sort and classify the pictures, words and symbols? What is your sorting rule?”

Students compare and contrast day and night.

  • “We have talked about a lot of things that are different between day and night. Is there anything that is the same? (e.g., “Day and night both have light. Daytime light comes from the Sun. Nighttime light comes from the Moon. Daytime light is usually brighter.”) How can we use a Venn diagram to show the things that are the same and the things that are different?”

Students observe the movement of the Sun at various points in the day and determine an appropriate method to record their observations.

**Safety note: never look directly at the Sun

  • “Shahir suggested that we need to record the position of Sun from the same place every time we make our observations. Why is this an important thing to do?”
  • “What are some ways that we can record our observations of the Sun’s position at different times during the day?”
  • “Cailin included her shadow in her recordings. What do you notice about her shadow in these pictures? What caused the changes in her shadow?”
  • “I wonder if our observations would change if we repeated our inquiry in the Winter and in the Spring? What do you predict would be the same? What do you predict would be different? How might our shadows change? What makes you think that?”

Students explain how the Earth’s rotation on its axis causes the cycle of day and night.

  • “Where does the Sun go at night? Where does the Moon go during the daytime? How can we find out?”
  • “In our exploration, what did you conclude about why the Sun seems to change its position in the sky?”
  • “Where is the Moon when the Sun is visible in the sky?”

Students identify the Sun as the principal source of Heat and light on Earth and describe what life would be like where they live without the Sun.

  • “What would life where we live be like if we never saw the Sun? Why do you think that?”
  • “Why are there some things that we only do at night and not in the daytime or that we only do in the daylight and not at night? (e.g., we only set off fireworks at night because we would not be able to see them in the daytime; many children and adults only ride their bikes in the daytime as it is easier for them to see and be seen)
  • “When do you predict is the warmest time of the day? Would this be the same if the Sun wasn’t shining? How can we find out?”

Cross-Curricular Connections

Literacy

  • Demonstrate an understanding of information and ideas by retelling (e.g., restating the information about how the Earth’s rotation on its axis causes the cycle of day and night)

Mathematical Thinking

  • Recognize, explore, describe, and compare patterns (e.g., the patterns in the cycle of day and night)
  • Measure, using non-standard units of the same size and/or standard units, and compare objects, materials, and spaces in terms of their temperature, and explore ways of measuring the passage of time (e.g., measure and compare temperatures throughout the day, measure passage of time by tracking the movement of the Sun throughout the day)

Visual Arts

  • Communicate feelings, ideas, and understandings in response to art works and art experiences ((e.g., explore and discuss aspects of a painting such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night)

Extending the Learning

Cover of How Raven Stole the Sun
Source: Open Library

If your students are interested in learning more, the following may provoke their curiosity:

  • The Indigenous people have many stories about how the Sun came to be. Read stories such as How Raven Stole the Sun, and How Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun, and ask students to compare and contrast the stories
  • Some places in Canada that are close to the North Pole have sunlight 24 hours a day at certain times in the spring and summer, and 24 hours of night throughout the winter months. Describe what you think it would be like to live in one of these communities and how your daily routines might stay the same and how they might change.
  • Obtain a picture of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting ‘Starry Night’ (don’t share the title). Ask students to describe what they see, what the picture reminds them of, and how the picture makes them feel. Discuss what colours the artist used (i.e., various shades of blue) and why they think he used them. Look at the swirls and discuss what they represent (i.e., the wind), and what the yellow and white circular shapes might be. Ask students to suggest an appropriate title for the painting. Students who are interested may wish to paint their version of the painting.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
Source: Wikimedia Commons

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