By Sarah Maze, M.S. Ed., Guest Blogger
The sun and the moon are objects that all students recognize but may know little about. When students apply their learning in extension activities, they develop a higher level of knowledge. Today we will examine some classroom activities to try out when expanding knowledge about the sun and the moon.
Hameray’s STEM Explorations titles are the perfect collection for eager scientists in first and second grade. The Changing Sun covers the rotation and orbit of the earth around the sun. Phases of the Moon focuses on why the moon changes appearances over time. Both of these books offer outstanding illustrations to explain the text.
Let’s begin with a few activities focused on the sun. Begin by reading The Changing Sun, included below. This helps students to build background knowledge about the sun. As you read, carefully draw their attention to the illustrations and photographs.
True or False Move: Prepare several true or false statements about the sun. Read them aloud and allow the students to move around. Students can stand for true statements and sit for false statements, or they can move to different parts of the room. For false statements, the students can correct the statement to make it true. Here are some examples of statements you could use:
- We have day and night because the sun is constantly moving. (False: the Earth is always moving.)
- The Earth rotates on a tilted axis. (True.)
- It takes one day for the earth to orbit around the sun. (False: it takes one year for the Earth to orbit the sun; or they may say it takes one day for the Earth to rotate.)
Prove it!: Common Core standards require students to give evidence to support their answers. This is training students to read passages carefully even at a young age. After the previous activity, put students in mixed-ability groups. Give them a page with facts and copies of the book. Then ask them to provide the page number where they can locate the information. Include facts from captions, vocabulary words, etc. For example:
Shifting Shadows: STEM learning is designed to be hands-on and interactive. Put an X made of tape on an area outside that gets direct sunlight. Have a student stand on that X sporadically at different times of day. Trace their shadow with chalk to show how the Earth is rotating—the shadow moves even though the X is still in the same place.
Another STEM activity related to the sun could be creating a sundial to demonstrate how people used the sun to tell time.
Our next book is Phases of the Moon. The same true-or-false activities could be repeated for this book. There are also many STEM activities that apply the concepts in this book to students’ lives.
Moon Log: Give students a calendar. Each day of the month, they will go outside and draw a picture of the moon on that date. At the end of the month, compare calendars and label the phases: new, full, waxing, waning, first quarter, and last quarter.
Act it Out: NASA offers a fun STEM activity on their website where students hold a white Styrofoam ball on a pencil. As they turn, their view of what’s illuminated changes based on their position relative to the light source. You can find more details here.
The more exposure students have to these concepts, they more familiar they will become. A culminating activity could be a list of facts where students have to determine if each fact is about the sun, moon, or Earth. Students could take turns picking a fact out of a bag, read it aloud, and determine which one:
Incorporate leveled readers for each STEM concept you introduce. This promotes literacy standards and extension activities allow students to apply what they have learned in a fun and engaging way. Come back soon for more tips on connecting STEM and literature.
Sarah is an elementary school teacher who has taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth grade. One of her most unique experiences was teaching orphans in Tanzania, Africa for a year. If you like what you read here, be sure to read more by Sarah on our blog.