Lesson plan

Movement of the Sun

Teaching children about space often inspires fun, physical activities and our set of learning through making lessons covers Earth and the movement of the sun in a way that will allow pupils to manage the process and direct their own learning - through making a sundial.

Some pupils may not know what a sundial even is which offers the chance to start with discussion and ask how people told the time before smartphones, watches or even clocks. It’s easy to forget that the Sun had all sorts of extra-curricular responsibilities for the advent of other time-telling means.

The lesson begins inside, using a desk lamp to show how shadows are cast. This activity is a preliminary exercise: demonstrating the idea of the Sun’s movement being used to work out the passage of time. Pupils will discuss how our ancestors told the time using shadows and you will suggest that if there were a tool that could track this movement, we might be able to tell the time with more precision.

Over five one-hour lessons, pupils will make their own sundial and use it to tell the time. During the design and creation of the dial, they will be taught the movement of the Moon relative to the Earth, using tennis balls and chalk. This leads to describing the Earth’s rotation and orbit relative to the Sun.

Finally, with their completed sundials, pupils will track the movement of the Sun and use observations of the direction and distance the shadow has travelled on their sundials to tell the time. Any theory learnt in this lesson can be extrapolated outwards to include a more general discussion about the Solar System and its mechanical properties.

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