What Color Is the Sky?
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
- Unit Plan:
Students explore the colors and changes in the sky by observing the refraction of light through a prism and recording the day and night sky over a week’s time.
- Distinguish the colors from the sun’s white light.
- Observe changes in the sky during the day and night and across time.
- Record and describe changes in the sky.
- Understand events in temporal order using days of the week.
- Small plastic or acrylic mirrors, one per student pair
- Pieces of 4- by 4-inch white cardboard for each student pair
- Plastic shoebox or dish tub for each team
- Two different colored push pins
- The Sky for a Week Recording Book (PDF)
- Pencils and crayons
- Writing paper
- And a sunny day
Set Up and Prepare
- Fill plastic shoeboxes or tubs 2/3 full with water and set outside.
- For each pair:
Cut a piece 4- by 4-inch white cardboard
- Gather writing paper and clipboards for each student (or a hard surface on which to write).
- Place one push pin in the globe where the children live and one on the opposite side
- Copy and staple The Sky for the Week Recording Book
Step 1: Gather students in a circle and ask if anyone knows why the sky is blue. Accept all answers. Remind them that the sun gives us both heat and light. Ask if anyone can tell you the color of the sun’s light. Let students know that the sun’s light is white, but in that white light are all the colors of the rainbow. We see blue because that color is scattered more throughout the sky than any other color. Tell students that today, as scientists, they are going to separate the colors from the white light. Ask them to suggest ideas on how to do this. Accept all answers.
Step 2: Take students outside on a sunny day and divide into pairs. Distribute the mirrors and white cardboard pieces. Tell the children that in order to separate the white light of the sun, they will need to make a prism using the water and the mirror. Demonstrate this while holding the mirror under water, facing directly towards the sun. Show them how you hold the paper above and in front of the mirror, moving the paper and mirror until the reflected light from the prism shines on the paper.
Step 3: Allow science partners (using the same partners from Lesson Two) to explore making their prism and observing the colored spectrum of light. You may want to work with small groups after letting students explore.
Step 4: Ask the science partners to each record their observations and write about what they did.
Step 1: Review the experiment you did the previous day. What did the sky look like? Does it look the same today? Will it look the same tomorrow? Three days from now? How will it look tonight? What kinds of things do we see in the sky during the day? What kinds of things do we see in the sky at night? Tell students that the sky may look different from day to day and from night to night. The earth takes one day to spin as it travels around the sun. Demonstrate with a flashlight and globe how the earth spins and the light from the sun (flashlight) shines on us. With the two push pins, show when one part of earth is dark (night), another is light (day).
Step 2: Tell students that meteorologists are scientists that observe the sky in order to forecast the weather. Tell them they are going to be meteorologists and observe the sky for 1 week. Distribute The Sky for a Week Recording Books and optional clipboards or provide a hard surface on which to write.
Step 3: Go outside. Invite students to observe the sky for a few minutes and record observations.
Step 4: Send home The Sky for a Week Recording Books for homework and have students record the sky at night, paying close attention to the moon. You may want to check the weather to make sure the moon is visible. Ask them to return their recording books each day so that they can record the sky during the day in school.
Step 1: Check The Sky for a Week Recording Books each day and record observations about the sky during the day. Have children share any interesting observations they made about the night sky.
Supporting All Learners
Pair students heterogeneously in the experiment for Day One. Assist student teams as needed. Encourage children to label their pictures with words or beginning letters of words. Take dictation for students not yet able to write.
Invite parents for a culminating event where students present their observations.
Have students cut out pictures of the sky from magazines and newspapers and make a sky collage with their parents.
- Refract light from the sun.
- Record observations of the sky over time.
- Were students able to manipulate the mirror and cardboard to refract light?
- Were they able to work in partners?
- How did they record the sky during the week?
- How might you do this lesson differently next time?
Check to see how students recorded their observations.