Jim Allison: Breakthrough

How Can the Sun Tell You the Season?

Contributor: Mystery Science

Type Category: Instructional Materials

Types: Assessment Item, Answer Key, Activity, Animation/Movie, Informative Text, Lesson/Lesson Plan

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 Mystery Science interactive video lesson, students discover how the sun’s path changes with the seasons. This is the fourth mystery in the series. The “lesson” includes: a 20-minute video exploration section, a 25-minute hands-on learning activity and an editable assessment, as well as a reading and an extra activity.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
Grade 1
Early Elementary


Access Restrictions
Limited free access - Some material is available for viewing and/or downloading but most material tends to be accessible through other means.

Performance Expectation

1-ESS1-2  Make observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year.

Clarification Statement:

Emphasis is on relative comparisons of the amount of daylight in the winter to the amount in the spring or fall.

Assessment Boundary:

Assessment is limited to relative amounts of daylight, not quantifying the hours or time of daylight.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation

The Performance Expectation is fully met at the conclusion of the lesson. This interactive video lesson allows the student to focus their observations of the world around them during different seasons and once that skill is honed then they make observations of the movement of the sun across the sky during different seasons.

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

The interactive video lesson and activity includes several opportunities for students to make observations, describe patterns, and answer both teacher guided and self-generated questions to meet the Practice.

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

The motion of the sun across the sky during each season is the emphasis of this lesson. To ensure that the full Disciplinary Core Idea is address, the teacher needs to directly point out sunset and sunrise and record observations throughout the lesson. Depending upon the time of year and location of the school, students would be able to view the sunrise at school. It is not likely that students would be able to view the sunset at school. If needed, the teacher could video the sunset for students to view in class during normal school hours. The viewing of the sunrise/sunset could be done as homework as well. If part of the assignment is for homework, students should be given clear and concise directions as to how to view the sunrise/sunset. The teacher should provide guidelines as to what to look for and think about during the viewing.

Crosscutting Concept

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept

To ensure that the full Crosscutting Concept is addressed, the lesson must be followed as the author notes. Discussion should be encouraged. When appropriate discussion points should be recorded in notebooks or on class anchor charts. As the observations of the earth moving across the sun’s position are strengthened, the student will begin to have evidence to make predictions for the next season..

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson in its entirety strongly supports all three dimensions of NGSS according to the Performance Expectation, Practice, Disciplinary Core Idea, and Crosscutting Concepts described in this review.
  • Instructional Supports: This lesson engages the learner in authentic and meaningful scenarios that reflect the Practice of Science and Engineering as experienced in the real world. Students make guided observations about pictures taken during different seasons and then they continue the observations to include the sun across the sky during different seasons.
  • Monitoring Student Progress: This lesson elicits direct, observable evidence of three-dimensional learning; students are using Practices with Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts to make sense of phenomena. It provides an interactive video, a focused activity, a teacher preparations section, an assessment and an answer key, a grade appropriate text about leaves changing color as well as a sky dome activity for extending the learning. Formative assessment is not embedded in the lesson. Anecdotal records or notebook understandings would need to be recorded.
  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The Technology is interactive to the group of students that is viewing the video. A teacher must be present to facilitate discussion and to monitor learning. The technology could be enhanced by providing an editable online assessment which includes video segments of the phenomenon being studied.