PRISMS: Phenomena & Representation for Instruction of Science in Middle School

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This is a representation reviewed for the following learning goal:

The intensity of sunlight striking a place on the surface of the Earth depends upon where the Earth is in its yearly orbit around the sun and how far the place is from the equator. These variations of intensity as the Earth orbits the sun explain the seasonal variations in temperatures at different places on the surface of the Earth.

Summary

The animation shows the position of the Earth relative to the Sun during the southern hemisphere's winter solstice and includes line of latitude and the angle of the Sun's rays at the Tropic of Capricorn. It addresses the part of the key idea about the intensity of sunlight that strikes a place on the surface of the Earth depending upon where the Earth is in its yearly orbit around the sun and how far the place is from the equator. It is likely to be comprehensible to middle school students.

Limitations:
The resource only addresses the Sun's light for one day and in one location on Earth. The size and distances of the Earth and sun not to scale.

Suggestions to improve effectiveness:
Explain that the variations of intensity as the Earth orbits the sun explain the seasonal variations in temperatures at different places on Earth. Show other animations that depict the variation in intensity of sunlight in Earth's yearly orbit around the sun.  Point out the inaccurate scale of size and distance.

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Detailed Review

Description

The representation depicts the position of the Earth relative to the Sun during the southern hemisphere's winter solstice and includes line of latitude and the angle of the Sun's rays at the Tropic of Capricorn.

  • Resource Copyright Owner: Michael Pidwirny
  • Type of Resource: video/quicktime


Content alignment

The resource addresses the actual substance of the learning goal rather than just the topic.

Explanation

The resource states, "In the animation, the South Pole is tilted 23.5° toward the sun. This condition causes the sun's rays to be most intense at the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5° South)."

Scope

The resource addresses the indicated part of the learning goal:

Explanation

[The intensity of sunlight striking a place on the surface of the Earth depends upon where the Earth is in its yearly orbit around the sun and how far the place is from the equator.] These variations of intensity as the Earth orbits the sun explain the seasonal variations in temperatures at different places on the surface of the Earth.

Sophistication

The resource correctly reflects the level of sophistication of the learning goal.

Explanation

The diagram of the Earth and Sun is not complex, and the text uses appropriate language to explain the diagram.

Notes for Teachers

Explain that these variations of intensity as the Earth orbits the sun explain the seasonal variations in temperatures at different places on the surface of the Earth.

Quality of instructional support

Does the representation accurately represent relevant aspects of the learning goal and/or brings out limitations that are not accurate?

Yes—The representation accurately represents relevant aspects of the learning goal and brings out inaccuracies, if there are any.

The resource clarifies that the intensity of the Sun's rays are illustrated by the angle of light at the Tropic of Capricorn. The resource also addresses the position of the Sun in the sky at this location, and the amount of daylight at the two poles on this day.

Is the representation likely to be comprehensible to students?

Partial—The representation might make the learning goal comprehensible to students.

The resource only addresses the Sun's light for one day of the year and in one location on Earth.

Does the representation make clear which aspects of the real thing are represented and which are not?

No—The representation does not make clear which aspects of the real thing are represented and which are not.

There is no disclaimer stating that the size and distances of the Earth and sun not to scale.

Summary Judgment

Useful with modification

Notes to teachers

Compare the difference in the intensity of the light at different locations on the represented Earth. Show other animations that depict the variation in intensity of sunlight in Earth's yearly orbit around the sun. Point out the inaccurate scale (size and distance). Use this resource in conjunction with "Earth-Sun Geometry: Summer Solstice Animation".

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