Jim Allison: Breakthrough

Warmth of the Sun

Contributor: AAAS ScieneNet Links

Type Category: Instructional Materials

Types: Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Phenomenon

Note: This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


In this lesson, students will take a closer look at the sun and begin to recognize its function in heating and warming the air, land, and water that sustains our lives. This will involve drawing their attention to the basics of the heat around them and how the sun is the primary source of that warmth. Students perform indoor and outdoor activities that help them identify the sun as the natural, universal source of heat in the world.

Intended Audience
Educator and learner

Educational Level
Early Elementary


Access Restrictions
Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectation

K-PS3-1  Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface.

Clarification Statement:

Examples of Earth’s surface could include sand, soil, rocks, and water

Assessment Boundary:

Assessment of temperature is limited to relative measures such as warmer/cooler.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation

The observations made by students during the activities (investigations) will help them determine the effect of sunlight on Earth's surface. Students at the kindergarten level may need help documenting their observations on the Warmth Chart during the first activity. More advanced students may be able to use thermometers to determine the difference in temperatures during the water activity.

Science and Engineering Practice

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice

Students are being asked questions by the teacher during the investigations that progress to descriptive questions about their observations. Students could work in pairs or small groups to answer the questions.

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

During the outdoor and indoor activities students will learn about the sun and its warming effects. After the investigations, they should be able to see more clearly how powerful and critical the sun is in warming everything around us. Students could pursue further investigations toward deepening their understanding about the phenomenon that the sun warms the Earth.

Crosscutting Concept

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept

Students are conducting investigations to understand that the sun affects Earth's surface to determine the difference in temperatures they feel in the sun, shade, or room temperature. Throughout the lesson students are asked to support their claims with explanations (evidence). Students could keep a science journal to draw and label pictures to support their claims.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The focus of the lesson is to support students in making sense of the phenomena of how the sun warms the Earth. Sense‐making takes place by having students integrate elements of the of the science and engineering practices (SEPs), disciplinary core ideas (DCIs), and crosscutting concepts (CCCs.) More investigations that show how the sun warms the Earth could be conducted to deepen student understanding of this phenomenon.
  • Instructional Supports: Students experience the phenomena directly by conducting indoor and outdoor investigations. During the lesson they are provided opportunities to connect their explanations of the phenomenon by answering questions that may draw from their own life experiences. Students are supported to express and justify their claims through oral feedback from the teacher. Students could work in small groups or pairs to complete the investigations, which would encourage collaborative learning.
  • Monitoring Student Progress: Students are answering questions posed by the teacher, so formative assessment is taking place throughout the lesson. They are completing a Warmth Chart that should reveal student understanding. Having students draw, label,and/or write in a science journal would also show student understanding.
  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.