Intensity and Angle of Insolation Lab

5 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT graph the relationship between intensity and angle of insolation [LAB]

Big Idea

This lesson examines the direct relationship between intensity and angle of insolation in this super-critical insolation lesson

Lesson Introduction

In this one-day laboratory activity, students get the chance to see and examine for themselves the relationship between angle of insolation and intensity of insolation. They set up a three-thermomemter contraption that has the thermometers at different angles under a thermal lamp, and they're able to observe, record, and chart the data to determine which heat up the quickest (and slowest)!

Materials Needed:

  • Thermal/Heat Lamp
  • Thermometers (3 per station)
  • Wooden block sets or contraptions that can hold thermometers at different angles
  • Timer/Clock

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: 4.7 - Angle of Insolation Lab [Whole Lesson w/comments]. Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: 4.7 - Angle of Insolation Lab [Whole Lesson]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]


Do Now & Objective(s)

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this case, the Do Now is a review of material from Unit 3 (Geologic History), in preparation for the upcoming interim assessment (which I briefly allude to in the Classroom Routine: Entry Routine and Do Now video). After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson. As posted above, you can see my traditional entry procedure in this video (Classroom Routine: Entry Routine and Do Now) to see how I greet students, encourage them to grab their work, and immediately get started on the Do Now.

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material; (again, this is a bit different, as they are reviewing for the quarterly Interim Assessment)
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Introduction & Procedure

10 minutes

We start the lab with the Introduction & Procedure, where students have the chance to read the Introduction and Objective on the first page of the resource. We then take a minute to define, in scientific terms, what the "angle of insolation" is in context ("The angle that insolation strikes the surface of the Earth. When this angle reaches 90 degrees, we say it is at the zenith.”). I then review the Procedure & Information section with students, with the emphasis on the fact that students should be graphing during the process of observing and analyzing the different temperature readings. Since the lab needs to be done in one period, it's necessary, at least in our class, for students to be graphing and recording data simultaneously. Since there are three lines, I usually ask students to pick a line or two (trying to do all three at once can be really challenging) and graph it in the time intervals in between recording. That keeps them occupied and allows them to save time on the back end, instead of just waiting to kill the dead time in between measurements (measurements are made every 60 seconds). 

Whether you do it the way I did it (as a "teacher model," where all students share the same information - see the Reflection in this section for more context) or have students do it in laboratory groups, it's imperative to have all of the materials ready before or shortly after students arrive. In my lesson, I had my equipment set up all ready, and just had to put the thermometers in place and turn on the light once the lab started. Having students assemble everything can waste valuable time in performing the components of the actual experiment. 



18 minutes

Once we've read through the initial part of the lab, I have students take a minute to set up their graphs in the Graph section of the lesson. On the first page of this resource, the graph and associated data table is already set up, although it will be necessary for students to complete all the fundamental aspects of the graph, including giving the graph a title, setting the scale and interval, and appropriately labeling the axes. 

Since we've done so many graphs, most of my students can do this without too much trouble, although I do give them some collaborative time (which we then come back together as a whole class to confirm) to think up which axes go where and to appropriately label their scale and intervals on both axes, as well as give a title to the graph itself. As a note, before starting the lab, I do mention the current room temperature the thermometers are at (usually anywhere from 16-22 degrees Celsius for most rooms), and then indicate that the maximum temperature the thermometers will achieve will be no greater than about 35. That gives them the needed context to actually make and label the axes with appropriate numbers such that their graphs are easily viewed and scientifically accurate (Note: You may want to do this differently, but in my lesson, it was okay if students had different y-axis numbers or different scales/intervals As long as the information readily fit, it didn't matter to me. Feel free to adjust or modify as necessary).

I also pass out some different colored pencils and rulers to allow for students to change colors for different lines, and to ensure that their graphs are neat and easy to read. After stopping and checking for questions, I start the timer, and we went through the time, being sure to record the new temperatures every 15 minutes. While the timer was going, I displayed the data table I was recording information on the ELMO so that students could work and graph at their own pace.  


12 minutes

I found that there was a relatively seamless transition from the graphing section into the Discussion part of the lab during this class. The way I set it up was that once students were finished graphing, they were to jump right into the data analysis and discussion questions in the Discussion resource. Once their neighbors and lab partners were done and caught up, they could join in working together on the questions themselves. 

The questions themselves are meant to be finished and completed in the allotted class time after their graphs are done in one period, so I encourage students to get right to work as soon as they're finished. If they don't finish, I assign the remaining questions, or whatever they haven't finished, as their homework for the evening. 


5 minutes

Since this a laboratory-based lesson, there is no traditional exit ticket or daily summative assessment (as I usually have). Instead, I make sure that students have the opportunity to view the Rubric, examine each respective category, and remind them to take home their laboratory assignments and fix any errors to ensure that they receive the maximum grade possible (I collect them at the start of class the next day).

Since I did this lab as a "teacher model," the equipment was only mine. I simply had to move the single lab set up instead of deconstructing sets for each group, so if you run this lab as a group (which I've done before), definitely allow enough time to do that (I'd recommend a minimum of 5 minutes of dedicated clean up time, especially with the fragile heat lamps or light bulbs you're sure to use). In the context of extra-lab materials, I make sure students have the opportunity to rearrange their desks in preparation for the next class and organize all of their respective materials. Then, as I usually close classes, we regroup at the posted objective, where I solicit feedback and ask how the laboratory process when for students.