FRAMING PATHWAYS TO ANSWERS: THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS IN ACTION
Cooler in the Shadows
Grade Level: Pre-K - 1
Duration: 1 - 2 hours
Students will make inferences about the cause of shadows by observing and making their own shadows in the sun. Many properties of shadows (such as heat and brightness of light) will also be identified firsthand as the students conduct simple experiments to observe changes that are comparable to those experienced by the MESSENGER spacecraft in its voyage to and around Mercury.
How does the amount of sunlight and heat change in areas that are shaded?
Sunlight and other types of light form shadows.
Shadows form because light travels in straight lines.
Light cannot pass through some materials and this leads to the formation of shadows.
Shadows can change position and shape and size depending on the position of the object in relation to the position of the light source.
Darkness is the absence of light.
MESSENGER Mission Connection
The generation of heat by sunlight is also why shadows are important for the MESSENGER mission to Mercury. Because the spacecraft will be very close to the Sun, it will receive much more intense sunlight than we get on Earth. To reduce the temperatures in the probes, a sunshade is included on the craft. The spacecraft is oriented so that the shade always faces the Sun, and the sensitive instruments used to make observations of Mercury are always in shadow.
Standards & Benchmarks
NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS
K-4 Standard D2b: Objects in the Sky
- The sun provides the light and heat necessary to maintain the temperature of the Earth. (From the narrative: "As they [students] observe changes, such as the movement of an object’s shadow during the course of a day, and the positions of the sun and moon, they will find patterns in these movements.")
K-4 Standard B31: Light, Heat, Electricity, and Magnetism
- Light travels in a straight line until it strikes an object.
BENCHMARKS FOR SCIENTIFIC LITERACY (AAAS PROJECT 2061)
K-2 Benchmark 4E
- The sun warms the land, air and water.