Plaid Pete is On the Move!

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SWBAT analyze patterns and use them to describe Earth's movement, relative to the sun.

Big Idea

What causes day and night? Students collect data, construct line graphs, and analyze patterns in natural phenomena to construct claims supported by evidence.

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth's Place in the Universe:  The Universe and its Stars -  that the sun is a star that appears larger and brighter than other stars because it's closer, and stars range greatly in their distance from Earth. (5-ESS1-1); Earth and the Solar System - that the orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, together with the rotation of Earth about an axis between its North and South poles, cause observable patterns.  These include day and night; daily changes in the length and direction of shadows; and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year. (5-ESS1-2); Motion and Stability:  Forces and Interactions - that the gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth's surface pulls that object towards the planet's center.  (5-PS2-1) and the Crosscutting Concept of Patterns  - Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena. (5-ESS1-1); Scale, Proportion, and Quantity - Natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large (5-ESS1-1); and Cause and Effect - Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified and used to explain change (5-PS2-1).

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 6 is 750 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 15 minutes.

Note:  The Guided Exploration activities were adapted from Eyes on the Sky Feet on the Ground:  Astronomy Activities for Kids produced by the Smithsonian Institution.

Materials Needed:

Note:  Students will need to set up this task the day before the lesson.

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 6

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Lab Sheet - Lesson 6

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Listening Guide - Lesson 6

Focus & Motivation

5 minutes

Introduce the Scenario

I remind my students that in our last scenario, Plaid Pete got into a little bit of trouble.  I explain that today, we will find out what happened.  We are also going to find out what Plaid Pete's latest research project is.  I say, "I hope this time Plaid Pete makes a better choice and doesn't get himself into trouble.  Let's hope his friends are a good influence and can help him out!  And - let's hope he is willing to listen to them!"  

Students Read the Scenario in their Teams

I pass out one copy to each of my students of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 6.  My students get their highlighters out and get ready to highlight the parts so they can read them "Reader's Theater" style.  They are getting so much quicker at this - my we have come far this year!  I explain that there are 4 parts - Plaid Pete, Seth, a new friend - Ethan, and the narrator.  Before my students begin, there are a couple of vocabulary words that I need to explain:  cacophony (loud, blaring sounds - like kids on a playground) and debacle (a disastrous failure).

This time, I collect the scenarios.  I make a list so that I know which students have misconceptions about the orbits of the Earth, sun, and moon.  I have seen the most recent statistic that 25% of people believe that the sun orbits Earth.  I do not want to be the teacher that contributes to this!  Knowing which students have these misconceptions will help me to "hone in" on them during the next series of investigations.   These students will receive a little extra time, instruction, and questioning to assist them in overcoming their misconceptions.

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria:  

Learning Objective:  I can analyze patterns and use them to describe the Earth's movement, relative to the sun.

Language Objective:  I can construct grade appropriate written claims and support them with reasoning and evidence.  [ELP.4-5.4]

Success Criteria:  I can make a claim supported by evidence from my investigation.

Guided Exploration

30 minutes

Note:  Students will need to set up this task the day before the lesson

Explain the Task

I have previously given each of my students a copy of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Lab Sheet - Lesson 6.  Since we need to collect data for one full school day (and we are collecting data every hour beginning at 9:00 a.m. and ending at 2:00 p.m.) I have discussed this section of the lesson with my students the day before, and we have everything ready to go so that we can begin collecting data this morning at 9:00 a.m.  The set up is fairly easy, but I have to be sure that they know how to use the compass correctly, and how to mark and measure the shadow correctly.  

One student per team will be coming out throughout the day to collect data.  I have worked with the recess supervisors and marked the area with orange cones to try and preserve our data area.  For safety considerations, I don't want my students collecting data in the parking lot.

This is a picture of one team's piece of card stock on which they have placed their clay and straw to collect their shadows:

At the end of the day, before we begin our classroom demonstration, I show the following animation from the National Schools' Observatory: Daytime Shadows Animation.  It is important that my students clarify the direction that the sun moved and the direction that the shadows moved before we begin the classroom demonstration.  This is a difficult concept for some of my students so I know they will need this extra scaffolding to assist them.

Classroom Demonstration

My students are gathered up close, sitting in chairs in a semi-circle, and then end up standing - so that they can view this demonstration.  I have a globe which I have suspended from the ceiling with string.  I have used an inflatable globe and have attached the string with duct tape to the globe, and used a push pin to attach it to the ceiling.  I am using an older overhead projector for my light source.  I have cut out the extra light by placing a sheet of paper with a hole cut out of its center, over the glass.  

I tell my students, "This light is the sun, and of course the globe is the Earth."  I point out where we live on the globe.  I point out the North Pole, and the South Pole.  I point out which direction is to the east and which is to the west.  I move the globe and say, "In the morning, we see the sun rise in the east."  I move the globe so that the sun is rising in the east.  I continue to slowly rotate the globe as I say, "And at night, we see the sun set in the west."  In this Video Clip 1, I am sharing that information with them.

I rotate the globe around and tell my students, "It is the beginning of another day, so the sun is again rising in the east."  I ask my students, "What is happening on the exact opposite side of the globe?"  I ask them to turn to the person next to them and share their idea.  I call on a student to share out and they state that it is night.  I ask how they know and they state that it is dark because the sun isn't shining on that part of Earth.  That part of Earth is in the shadow.

In this Video Clip 2, I conduct another demonstration.  I take a piece of fun tack and place a golf tee along the globe at our latitude.  I again turn the globe so that the sun is rising in the east.  I tell my students, "Watch carefully and see what you notice."  I stop as the tee creates a shadow.  I ask my students to turn and talk about what they see.  I call on a student to comment and they state that the tee is creating a shadow.  I turn the globe until the shortest shadow points towards the North Pole.  I stop and tell my students, "What do you notice about this?  Is it like anything you discovered when you collected data with your shadows?"  I ask a student to share out and that state that as with the data that they collected, the shortest shadow points North.

Make A Claim 

I ask my students to return to their teams.  I tell them, "I am going to give you a few minutes to look through the evidence you have collected - both the data you collected about shadows, and the demonstration that I just conducted.  I would like you to participate in a short discussion in your teams.  After your discussion - you will each choose one of the following claims to write in the Claims and Evidence Table, on the bottom of the second page of your lab sheet.  After you write the claim, you will support it with evidence from your data, and from the demonstration.  Choose one of the following claims:

  • The Earth spins on its axis, and rotates around the sun, causing daily patterns of day and night.
  • The sun rotates around the Earth, causing daily patterns of day and night.


I step back and give my students space to discuss their ideas, listening intently.  In this Video Clip 3, I listen in as a student begins to summarize the demonstration, in order to make sense of it.  After a bit, I tell my students, "It's time to make a claim, and as always - good scientists support their claims with evidence."  It is so quiet that all I can hear is the sound of pencils scratching across paper.  I tell my students, "It's time to acquire a bit more information from our friends at Scholastic."


25 minutes

Introduce the Video

I hand out a copy of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Listening Guide - Lesson 6 to each of my students.  Before we begin the video, there are two commonly confused terms that they need to understand:  rotation, and orbit or revolution.  I have a quick input chart where I have students draw a picture/diagram of each.  I also call up 6 students, placing one in the center.  I first have the 5 students revolve (orbit), or make one revolution around the 6th student.  Then I ask 1 of the students to rotate in place while the others stay still.  I have a number of students with vocabulary difficulties and these two quick vocabulary supports will assist them greatly.

I tell my students to listen very carefully as I play the Scholastic Study Jams:  A Day on Earth video.  After the video, I give my students time to discuss the video and work together to fill in the cloze passages.  Finally, I ask teams to share out their answers.  I tell my students, "You have some new information now to revise your claims!"

Students Revise Claims

I ask students to get out their green pens, go back to their lab sheets, draw their "line of learning" below their previous claim and evidence, and revise them.  Some students are excited that they do not have to revise their claim, but I prompt them to use what they have learned to strengthen their evidence.

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Make Them A Star!

My students love it when I make them a star!  I looked over their shoulders as they were writing their claims and evidence.  I noticed a few exemplars.  I placed a Post-It note with a Star on their paper.  I tell my students, "We have a few stars among us - students who have stand-out examples of claims that are supported with compelling evidence.  If you have a star on your paper and you are willing to share, would you please stand."

Here is one star that I found!

These students stand, and after they read their claims and evidence, they receive each receive a round of applause for the excellent work.  This includes the student who wrote the stellar example above, as seen in this Video Clip  This is one strategy that is pushing the level of excellence - they all want to be a star!