Arctic Nights

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SWBAT relate different amounts of daylight to different times of year.

Big Idea

How does the amount of daylight change in the Arctic-- the land of the midnight sun?

Instructional Notes

This unit is a mini-unit that can be taught directly after Space Part 1 or independently.  I chose to teach the Space Part 1 unit (also here on BetterLesson!) during January, and then Space Part 2 in late May.  

Space Part 1 addresses the following NGSS standard:

1-ESS1-1. Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted. 

This mini-unit addresses this additional standard:

1-ESS1-2. Make observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year.

It becomes so clear to children that days are getting longer in the Spring and Summer, which makes this a perfect time to analyze data about the amount of daylight in different seasons.  Also, now having lived through multiple seasons with my students, we can share common experiences (remember when snow covered the playground *forever*!?!).

In this lesson, students are transported to the Arctic through the text Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights.  While reading, we create a data table showing how the amount of daylight changes throughout the year.  The text also describes how the amount of daylight affects the natural landscape and animals, which is a deeper concept explaining the importance of what we are learning.  


5 minutes

To begin the lesson, I first tell students to bring their science notebooks and a pencil to a reading spot.  My students each have marbled composition notebooks dedicated to science thinking, and in today's lesson, students will take notes and/or copy the shared writing chart as we read.  

When completing a read-aloud, I sit in a chair at the front corner of the rug.  "Reading spots" mean students are clustered around the chair, with their eyes towards the reader.  I play a transition song, during which students get their materials and return to the rug.  Music makes the classroom more joyful, and it also allows time for students to sharpen pencils or stretch their legs a bit!

Next, we summarize what we have been learning over the last few lessons and write at the top of our day's anchor chart that, "We know: the amount of daylight changes during the year."  We also bring in data from a previous lesson that the maximum amount of daylight hours in the summer is about 14, and the minimum in the winter is about 9.  This data will help us compare our location to the Arctic.

Finally, I tell students that today's data will be about the Arctic.  I write a T-chart, which students may copy into their notebooks, with the month on the left and the hours of daylight on the right.


30 minutes

As I read the book, Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights, I first read the month at the top and record it on the T-chart.  Then I read the amount of day and night hours, which I record, and finally I read the prose.  Students take notes in a shared writing in their Science Journals.  I round the data to the closest hour for simplification.  Most students copy all or part of the data in the t-chart, although what is so great about science journals is that students can record whatever helps them.  In this student journal sample, the student added additional information and picked a different format than a T-chart.  What is important is not that students copy my writing exactly; rather, journals like this one show that students are synthesizing the information and recording it in a way that best helps them understand it.  

This sample shows the student wrote a prediction about the text, "I think this is about daylight and not that daylight" and also drew to illustrate their understanding of day versus night.

As we continue reading, a pattern becomes obvious in the number of daylight and nightlight hours. You can see the pattern here on the anchor chart.  To hit Science & Engineering Practice #6 Mathematics and Computational Thinking, I had students calculate the sums of 24.  For example, there are 12 hours of daylight; if there are 24 hours in a day, how many hours of darkness are there?  And, in January when the pattern started repeating itself in a backwards pattern, I asked students to predict before reading the number from the text.  Students had to justify their response, "Well, I see that the numbers went from 3 back to 5, so maybe it will go back to nine next."  In this way, they are using data and patterns to make predictions.


5 minutes

After the lesson, again we summarize what the data shows.  The data shows that in the Arctic, there are different amounts of daylight at different times in the year.  

Students are also interested in the Northern Lights after reading this text.  We had some extra time, so I searched YouTube for some short clips about the Northern Lights.  Many clips are set to music, and they are really neat to watch!