MY NASA DATA Lesson:

The Sun's Energy

The Sun

Image courtesy NASA

Purpose:
To engage students in basic line plot analysis using authentic NASA data. This lesson also allows students to connect the idea that the sun heats up land, air, and water. Students will practice drawing conclusions based on graphed data.
Grade Level: K – 2
Estimated Time for Completing Activity: Two 30-minute class periods.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will observe line plot data on Energy from the Sun on clear days
  • Students will evaluate changes in the amount of energy from the sun that reaches land, water, and air
  • Students will draw conclusions about changes in the amount of energy from the sun that reaches land, water, and air
  • Students will manipulate data sets from MyNASAData website via printed copy
Prerequisite
  • Knowledge that the Sun’s energy heats land, water, and air of the Earth
  • Knowledge of Month abbreviations (or a reference sheet available)
  • Knowledge of Weather, Season’s, and the Sun’s Energy
National Standards:
  • Science Content: C Life Science
  • Science Content: E Science and Technology
  • Science Content: F Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
  • Science Content: G History and Nature of Science
Virginia Standards of Learning:
  • Math3.22: The student will read and interpret data represented in line plots, bar graphs, and picture graphs and write a sentence analyzing the data.
  • Sci1.6a: The student will investigate and understand the basic relationships between the sun and the Earth. Key concepts include the understanding that the sun is the source of heat and light that warms the land, air, and water.
Vocabulary:
Lesson Links:
Background:

Line plots are a useful way to display data especially change over time. During this lesson, students will view NASA data displaying the amount of the Sun’s energy absorbed in Australia throughout one calendar year.

While the units found on the plots for this lesson may be difficult for students to understand, they can be explained in a way that is easier to understand. When explaining the plot to the students, you can tell them that the line shows the energy from the Sun and if the line gets higher it gets warmer and vice versa

Procedure:

Tips provided under teacher notes section

1. Create and display provided line plot for student viewing from your location. (see teacher notes section for directions)
2. Ask students to predict why this type of graph is called a line plot found in the student worksheet.
3. Point out the title of the graph at the bottom which says Energy from the Sun, this graph is about the sun’s rays shining down onto the Earth over your location. Have students put a star next to the title, because it is very important.
4. Ask students what they think it means when the line of a line plot goes up or goes down. Have them share their ideas with a partner. Compare this to a mountain and valley, slide (walking up to the top to slide down) or staircase, walking up and down.
5. Point out the left side of the graph. This side contains numbers, when you travel up the side, do the numbers go up or down?
(Up, so the higher lines mean higher values.)

6. Have students place their pinky finger on the bottom of the graph. Point out the abbreviations for the months. If this is confusing, you may want to post the abbreviations next to the full month names. Ask the students what the bottom of the graph shows: (months of the year)

7. Ask the students to look at the line plot. Using their fingers like a little person walking, start from the left side of the line plot and walk, following the line, all the way to the right side (end) and stop. Where is the line plot highest? Ask them what month that point represents.
8. Ask the students what the highest spot means on this graph. Have them share with a partner.
(That is when the most sun hits your location).
Have students circle the highest point.
9. Ask students to put their finger back on the highest point then slide their fingers down to the lowest point on the line plot
How do you know this is the lowest point? (It is all the way at the bottom). What does that mean? (That is when your location has the least amount of sun) Have students circle the lowest point.
10. Ask students to name the month with the least amount of sun. You may need to model this by putting your finger or pointer on the lowest point (circled) and show that you can find the number to the left and month name to the bottom.

Day Two
1. Display provided line plot for student viewing (Australia). Do not let the students know the location of the plot yet.
2. Have students put a star next to the title.
3. Where is the line plot highest? Ask them what month that point represents.
( November or December-they may need help modeling this at first
Technically the answer is December-this particular plot is not clear, but it is supposed to display data from January 1st to December 1st.)

4. Ask the students what the highest spot means on this graph. Have them share with a partner. (That is when the most sun hits Australia) Have students circle the highest point.
5. Ask students to find the lowest point on the line plot. How do you know this is the lowest point? (It is all the way at the bottom) What does that mean? (That is when Australia has the least amount of sun). Have students circle the lowest point.
6. Ask students to name the month with the least amount of sun (June) You may need to model this by putting your finger or pointer on the lowest point (circled) and show that you can find the number to the left and month name to the bottom.
7. Ask students to predict where the line plot for today is from based on the data. You might want them to compare the data from the day before.
8. Independent practice-Pacific Ocean.
(Questions correspond to the Independent Practice Sheet)

Questions:

What is the title of the graph?
(Energy from the Sun-Pacific Ocean)

What month has the highest amount of sun?
(June)

What do the abbreviations at the bottom of the graph mean?
(Months of the year)

What month has the lowest amount of sun?
(November or December)

Extensions:

Compare Pacific Ocean data to Australia data. Have students work with a partner. One partner using Pacific Ocean plot and one with Australia plot.

Are the months with highest or lowest amount of sun the same? (No)
Why do you think they are different? (Answers may vary)

Making a generalization: If you know the months in Australia with the most sun, what season do think happens during that month?
(Provide think time and allow students to share with a classmate)

This lesson can be followed up by China Sun Energy Comparison lesson. In that lesson, students compare this energy from the sun graph with another taken during cloudy weather.

Lesson plan contributed by Becky Schnekser, MY NASA DATA Team

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