Observational skills are important in
understanding how the Universe works. Through many years of observation,
the science of physics evolved as a science that helps explain phenomena
that we see every day, but are not sure how it works. This lab helps
students focus on observing the night sky and then discusses what might
Although children see stars in the
night, they really have not observed the stars movement. The changes are
subtle, but real.
- In this exercise, the students
look at the star boxes to see if there are any changes. Students can use
a flashlight to look in first, and then look in again to see the glowing
images. For a large class, you can build several star boxes if you
follow the specifications. See instruction at the end of the
"Procedure" for more details on how to make them.
- If you do not want to make star
boxes, you might want to make a set of glow in the dark worksheets. Use
the enclosed sheet and outline the black dots with either glow in the
dark markers, or cut out the appropriate pieces from glow in the dark
sheets that you can purchase. Have the students work in groups and have
them observe the different pictures to observe what is happening. The
star boxes are much more effective, but if you have limited time and
storage, this alternative works well.
- We recommend that you use
"GLOW IN THE DARK" stickers. Make sure you shine a light in
the box before the students look inside. Have the students do this as
part of the exercise. For your own information, this is called
phosphorescence, the light has excited the atoms of phosphorous to stay
bright just a little longer.
- The logic behind students looking
at 4 different boxes is for them to focus on the change in the star
patterns. The children will have to look over and over again, to notice
the changes. Make the patterns in the box similar, but different enough
so they can see a difference.
- At home, see if their
parents will let them go outside at night to see if they can detect
changes in the stars. Yes, the stars do seem to move. The Earth moves
and makes the stars seem as if they move. Stars also rotate and revolve,
but the movement we experience on Earth is mainly because the Earth
rotates on its axis from east to west.
- Point out that not all those
points of light are one star. Many times they are many stars in a galaxy
that we see on Earth as one point of light. Explain that
"stars" are not really star-shaped. Stars really look like our
Sun but we "see" a pointed polygon because our eyes see it
- There are several star box
patterns that you can use. In the directions on the next page to make a
star box, we use several examples. Basically, students should deduce
that the stars remain stationary over the span of a night, but the Moon
appears to move across the sky. Understanding why this happens includes
learning that the Moon is attracted to the Earth because of gravity. A
large mass like the Earth can control the movement of the Moon. The
Earth and Moon together, revolve around the Sun, but the children are
not seeing this during the night sky. The Earth is spinning on its axis
as the Moon is revolving around the Earth. The end product is that the
Moon looks like it is moving and we are not. However, we know that the
Earth and Moon are both moving.
- Making Star Boxes for the