Grade 3: Our Solar System

Lessons at a Glance


Lesson 1: Daytime and Nighttime

Big Idea: The sun appears to travel through the sky in a predictable daily pattern.

A science talk that explores children's ideas about the reasons for daytime and nighttime.

 

Lesson 2: A Sense of Sun

Big Idea: The sun appears to travel through the sky in a predictable daily pattern.

Children use their senses to experience the sun. They consider the sun as Earth's source of light and think about the effect sunlight has on Earth in terms of heat and shadows.

 

Lesson 3: Watching the Sun for a Day

Big Idea: The sun appears to travel through the sky in a predictable daily pattern.

Children observe the sun several times throughout the day and discern how it seems to move across the sky. In addition, they learn about the variables, such as landmarks and shadows, needed to make accurate observations of the sun.

 

Lesson 4: The Sun in Fall: Data Collection

Big Idea: The sun appears to travel through the sky in a predictable daily pattern. The apparent path of the sun across the sky changes slowly over a year.

The children use scientific tools to observe shadows and record the sun's position several times during the day. They collect data they will compare to data collected in winter and spring.

 

Lesson 5: Modeling the Sun in Fall

Big Idea: The sun appears to travel through the sky in a predictable daily pattern. The apparent path of the sun across the sky changes slowly over a year.

Children use flashlights with the sky dome and shadow-recording tool to model the sun's position in the sky throughout the day.

 

Lesson 6: Our Models of Daytime and Nighttime

Big Idea: The sun appears to travel through the sky in a predictable daily pattern. The sun's daily pattern can be explained by the rotation of Earth.

Children create models that help explain their observations of daytime, nighttime and the sun's apparent movement across the sky during the daytime. They begin to understand that daytime and nighttime are caused by Earth's rotation on its axis.

 

Lesson 7: Earth Rotates

Big Idea: The sun appears to travel through the sky in a predictable daily pattern. The sun's daily pattern can be explained by the rotation of Earth.

The children use models to discern that the rotation of Earth explains their observations of daytime and nighttime and the apparent movement of the sun across the sky.

 

Lesson 8: Class Astronomer

Big Idea: The length of daylight slowly changes over the year.

Children collect sunrise and sunset data on a daily, then weekly, basis and calculate elapsed time to determine the length of daylight for each day. They record the data collected and begin to look for patterns as the year progresses.

 

Lesson 9: Watching the Moon for a Day

Big Idea: Like the sun, the moon appears to move across the sky daily. Sometimes you can see the moon during the day.

Children observe the moon multiple times on a single day and discern how it appears to move across the sky.

 

Lesson 10: Watching the Moon for a Month

Big Idea: The observable shape of the moon changes from day to day. The moon's cycle takes about a month.

Children learn how to conduct daily observations of the moon and record its shape over one lunar cycle.

 

Lesson 11: Wondering About the Moon

Big Idea: Wondering about the world leads to scientific investigations and research.

Children wonder about the moon and create a "K-W-P-L" (Know-Want to Know-Predict-Learned) of their ideas. They also think of strategies for researching their ideas about the moon.

 

Lesson 12: The Moon's Cycle

Big Idea: The observable shape of the moon changes from day to day in a predictable pattern. The moon's cycle takes about a month.

The children review and reflect on the moon phase data they collected over the previous month. They also record their current ideas about what they think causes the moon's cycle.

 

Lesson 13: Modeling the Moon's Cycle

Big Idea: The moon's shape seems to change from day to day because we see different views of the moon's sun-lit portion as the moon orbits around Earth. The moon's cycle takes about a month, the time it takes for the moon to orbit Earth.

Children practice using a model that explains the cause of the moon's cycle.

 

Lesson 14: The Sun in Winter: Data Collection

Big Idea: The apparent path of the sun across the sky changes slowly over a year. The length of daylight slowly changes over the year.

Children look at how the sun's apparent path across the sky has changed since their observations in the fall. They observe shadows and record the sun's position several times during the day.

 

Lesson 15: The Sun in Winter: Modeling and Comparing

Big Idea: The apparent path of the sun across the sky changes slowly over a year. The length of daylight slowly changes over the year.

Children use a flashlight with the sky dome and shadow-recording tool to model the sun's apparent path across the sky throughout the day. This exploration compares and contrasts data collected in the fall and the winter.

 

Lesson 16: The Sun in Spring: Data Collection

Big Idea: The apparent path of the sun across the sky changes slowly over a year. The length of daylight slowly changes over the year.

Children again use tools to record the sun's position several times during a day.

 

Lesson 17: The Sun in Spring: Modeling and Comparing

Big Idea: The apparent path of the sun across the sky changes slowly over a year. The length of daylight slowly changes over the year.

Children use a flashlight with the sky dome and shadow-recording tool to model the sun's apparent path across the sky throughout the day. This exploration compares and contrasts data collected in the fall, winter, and spring.

 

Lesson 18: Predicting the Sun in Summer

Big Idea: The apparent path of the sun across the sky changes slowly over a year. The length of daylight slowly changes over the year.

Children compile all the daylight data they collected over the past six months on a line graph. They then compare the graph to all the other information they collected and make an educated prediction about the sun's pattern in summer.

 

Lesson 19: Modeling Earth's Orbit Around the Sun

Big Idea: The sun's annual pattern is the result of Earth orbiting the sun once a year.

Children model the yearly orbit of Earth around the sun. They become aware of the tilt of the globe, and consider how Earth's tilt relates to changes in the length of daylight and height of the sun in the sky throughout the year.

 

Lesson 20: Relative Sizes of the Sun, Moon, and Earth

Big Idea: The sun is a star like all other stars. The sun is the center of our solar system, and Earth is one of nine planets that orbit it.

Children view the comparative sizes of scale models of Earth, the moon, and the sun.

 

Lesson 21: Wondering About Our Solar System and Beyond

Big Idea: The sun is the center of our solar system, and Earth is one of nine planets that orbit it.

The children wonder about the solar system and create a class "K-W-P-L" (Know-Want to Know-Predict-Learned) chart of their ideas about the solar system and what lies beyond it.

 

Lesson 22: Stars Outside Our Solar System

Big Idea: The sun is a star like all other stars. Like the sun appears to move across a daytime sky, the stars appear to move across the nighttime sky because Earth rotates on its axis.

After reviewing that the sun is in the center of our solar system, children focus on how stars appear to move across the nighttime sky and discover why we don't see stars during the daytime. This lesson is the first of two that address stars outside our solar system.

 

Lesson 23: Stars and Planets

Big Idea: The sun is a star like all other stars. The sun is the center of our solar system, and Earth is one of nine planets that orbit it. Like the sun appears to move across a daytime sky, the stars appear to move across the nighttime sky because Earth rotates on its axis.

Children study several pictures of planets and their changing positions against a stable background of stars.

 

Lesson 24: Researching the Planets

Big Idea: Nine planets orbit around our sun. Each planet has unique characteristics that distinguish it from other planets.

To continue learning about objects in our solar system, children use print and online resources to gather information about a planet they choose to investigate.

 

Lesson 25: Describing the Planets

Big Idea: Nine planets orbit around our sun. Each planet has unique characteristics that distinguish it from other planets.

Children use the information they gathered from their research in the previous lesson to prepare a creative report describing one of the planets in our solar system.

 

Lesson 26: The Scale of Our Solar System

Big Idea: Nine planets orbit around our sun. Vast distances exist between the planets.

Children investigate the scale of the solar system, the size of the planets, and how far apart they are relative to the sun.

 

Skill Building Activity 1: Using Models in Science

Big Idea: Scientists use models to represent things that are too big, small, fast, slow, far away, or dangerous to observe in the real world.

Children study various types of models and learn how they are used in science. They also make models of their own.

 

Skill Building Activity 2: Building to Scale

Big Idea: Scale models represent real objects but are different sizes than the actual object. Scientists make scale models to help them look at something that is hard to study otherwise.

Children think about when changes of scale might be useful in making scientific models. Then they use pattern blocks to make shapes at larger scales, and talk about the fractions that identify the scales they used. Children share toys that represent real objects, comparing the scales of similar objects, and creating models with objects of the same or similar scale.

 

Skill Building Activity 3: Making Line Graphs

Big Idea: Line graphs are charts that measure how data changes over a period of time.

This activity provides a basic introduction on how to organize data on a line graph and how to use it as a tool to understand the data displayed. The children learn how to make educated predictions, a skill needed for many science activities.

 

Skill Building Activity 4: Elapsed Time

Big Idea: Elapsed time can be calculated by adding the number of hours and minutes that have passed between a beginning and ending time.

Children explore measuring time by using a paper clock or Judy Clock to calculate the amount of time that elapses between various starting and ending times.