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Earth and Space Science

Sun Trackers

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Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

Anyone know of a fast and cheap way to make sun trackers, or where I can buy them at (since I have skills of a craftsman with all thumbs and 2 left hands that are on backwards)? They're a clear plastic bowl over a mirror with a compass on it and you put a dot on the plastic bowl to mark the passage of the sun over the year. The bowl needs to be almost a perfect sphere, or hemisphere. Flinnsci.com doesn't know what I'm talking about. Does anyone know where I can find these things?

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

I searched several different science suppliers and I believe this may be what you are looking for
Sun Tracking Hemisphere Kit

That sounds like an interesting lesson - have you also tried using the Sun Sticks? There are some interesting articles in the Learning Center on teaching about the motions of the sun too: Summer Skies, Celestial Grid System, and Science Sampler: Eratosthenes visits middle school—Assessing the ability of students to work with models of the Earth

I hope some of this helps!

Patricia Reid Patricia Reid 1850 Points

Using the Sun Tracker would be a visible way my students can see the movement of the sun. Thanks for the info on who has it. What are sun sticks and how would you use them?

Thanks Tina! I teach 3rd grade in Hawaii and this tool seems perfect for the following benchmark, SC.3.8.3 Safely observe and describe the basic movements of the sun and moon. The benchmark goes into more detail about the sun in the sky from season to season. I found this article, Teaching Through Trade Books: Seasons by the Sun (attached), helpful.


Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

@Tina: Thanks for the resource on the sun tracking kit, that's EXACTLY what I'm looking for. Plus, I can make a cultural-connection with the heiau on the islands, and what they were keeping track of. Awesomesauce! And, Eratosthenes! How did I forget that experiment! I could totally have my kids do that activity and then compare it to real-life. It also gives me a real-world example for why math is important. Love this idea! Thank you so much! I

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

I was looking for directions for the sun sticks and I found another site with the sun tracker at
http://www.artec-educational.com/moon-tracking-p-1191.html and it is reasonably priced.

I also came across this photo - someone who did a time lapsed photo of the sun from solstice to solstice - very cool!

A sun stick is really a sun dial but what you are do with it is you mark the position of the sun at noon every day for as long as you can. If you put at mark at the top of the stick each day you should see that the shadow gets longer and shorter and moves over time The shape will be dependent on one's latitude because the sun does not rise as high in winter and rises higher in summer. This website goes into more details on this activity and provides an interesting variation.

I cannot find the exact activity - but I remember thinking how cool this next set of observations would be. In some book, I read that if you put a hole in the blinds for a window that faces south, and you pull it to the same position every day and mark the position of the sun every day, you get something that looks like an infinity sign - in my part of the world (Indiana) we would expect over the course of the school year to end up with a shape where the center is the equinox and the edges are the solstices.

Additional Sun links: Sun-Earth Day 2005 has some interesting lessons.
NASA Year of the Solar System also has some sun-specific lessons

Angelo Laskowsky Angelo Laskowsky 2190 Points

@Tina: Thank you so much for that picture!! That's an AMAZING photo! I can use that in my class as a starter and I just know my kids will respond to it. It's such an evocative pic! I was looking at it the other day during lunch and one of my kids asked for help. He was transfixed by that picture. He couldn't understand that that really was the sun and it really did move up and down across the sky like that throughout the year. I spent more time explaining to him how that worked that he never did get help with his homework. :/ Either way, great resources as always! Thanks so much!

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

Sorry I haven't been able to get on the Learning Center for a while :(

I am so glad you liked the picture - I have never seen anything like that so I had to share!

I was reading an article about Gnomons (sun sticks) and so I started looking online for additional information and found things like this
Eratothenes where you can actually post pictures and data from your students measuring the shadow of the sun at noon (solar time not clock time)
The Sundial Project has information on sundials and gnomons
and Sunshine in your Pocket does a good job of explaining how to use a sundial to track the height of the sun throughout the year by the length of the shadows and how to use the shadows to determine your latitude.

Sun trackers seem to be so useful in learning about our world!

Matthew DeSilva Matthew deSilva 665 Points

Last year I made a tool that would show the transit of the sun in relation to the Latitude of the viewer and the day of the year. If you are interested in something like that let me know. I did it for a 5th grade classroom. A little advanced for them but we completed the project in 3 45 minute class periods. It was pretty cool.

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