Discovering Science: teaching science and a sense of history (sun and shadows, grades 4-5)

Do students really know about the importance of the sun and the shadows it casts? They may be fascinated to know that hundreds of years ago the sun was the key to helping people know the time of day. NSTA’s “Discovering Science” lesson on the sun and shadows lets students explore how shadows can be used to tell time.

Use the lesson as a springboard to discovering the history of sundials. When and where were sundials first used? How were they made? How important were they in the lives of people? Let students create timelines showing the history of sundials. Engage students in using historical maps to trace the path of the sundial’s presence in the ancient world.

As students gain an understanding of the history of sundials, they will see the importance these early timepieces played in the cultures of our world and appreciate the advances made in science and technology. According to the Next Generation Science Standards, “With the addition of historical examples, the nature of scientific explanations assumes a human face and is recognized as an ever-changing enterprise.”

Read more about the history of sundials.

Lesson Plan

Please take a look at the sun lesson plan for Grades 4-5. Let us know how it worked in your classroom—we’d love to hear your comments and suggestions!

Image of students casting shadows courtesy of Brian Sahagun.

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