How to Teach Third Grade Students About the Sun
Motion of Earth Around the Sun
- 1). Show students a rotating model of the sun, earth and moon.
- 2). Explain that a model is a small representation of something very big. Move the moon and earth on the model to demonstrate their actual motion.
- 3). Pass the model around the classroom so that students may create the movements themselves.
- 4). Ask the students to draw a picture of the model in their science notebooks, using arrows to show movement.
Reflection of the Sun's Light
- 1). Discuss the properties of the moon (i.e., its size, shape and color). Ask them how they think the moon becomes illuminated at night. Have them write their answers in their science notebook.
- 2). Pass out an orange and a piece of foil to each student. Ask them to cover their orange with the foil to make a model of the moon. Explain that they will test whether or not the sun illuminates the moon at night.
- 3). Turn off the lights and ask the students to observe the moon model. Turn the lights on and ask them what they observed. Have them write their observations in their science journal.
- 4). Discuss the sun's characteristics (i.e., size, shape and composition). Pass out a flashlight to each student and have them turn it on. Explain that the illuminated flashlight represents the sun.
- 5). Turn off the lights and ask the students to shine the flashlight on the orange in as many different ways as possible. Specifically, ask them to lift the orange above their desk and shine the flashlight from below. Ask them to then observe what happens to the surface of the desk.
- 6). Turn the lights on and have the students write down their observations in their science notebook. Discuss their observations and conclusions based on the experiment. Lead them to the conclusion that the sun's light reflects off the moon and onto the earth. Use the sun, earth and moon model to highlight this conclusion.
The Nature of the Sun's Light
- 1). Read the students a book about the sun's power, such as "My Light" by Molly Bang. Discuss the energy emitted by the sun's light, including heat.
- 2). Give each student a thermometer and a square each of black, blue and white construction paper. Have the students create a chart in their notebooks with three rows labeled "black," "blue" and "white" and two columns labeled "sun" and "shade."
- 3). Have the students place their thermometers in the shade for three minutes each on the white, blue and then black paper. Ask them to record the temperature after each three-minute increment.
- 4). Have the students place their thermometers on the white, blue and then black pieces of construction paper in the sun for three minutes each. Ask them to record the temperature after each three-minute increment.
- 5). Discuss their observations and ask the students to come to a conclusion about the sun's energy. Prompt them to conclude that the sun generates energy, which can then be absorbed. Discuss that dark colors absorb more of the sun's energy than light colors and that the colors themselves do not generate heat. Discuss how plants absorb and use the sun's energy and how humans eat plants in order to obtain the sun's energy indirectly.