Day and Night

Day and Night--First Grade


Program Goal

Day and Night is a self-contained, introductory planetarium program which will allow students to discover the true nature of this phenomenon through role-playing and the multimedia capabilities of the planetarium. For many, this lesson will provide pupils with their first introduction to the wonders of the night sky, and act as a catalyst for future explorations at the ASD Planetarium.

Orientation Objectives

Students have entered the planetarium and are sitting on a rug in front of the instructor. The entire room is dark except for one light bulb which is shining in back of the children. The lesson is fast-paced with plenty of role playing activities and sound effects provided by the instructor. A wireless microphone will be used to amplify the audio portion of the program. The majority of the class will be able to recognize by verbal response the following information which is underlined:


    • STUDENTS WILL RELATE THE VARIOUS TYPES OF ACTIVITIES ASSOCIATED WITH DAY AND NIGHT and realize the sun's role in producing these different pastimes. The general characteristics of the answers usually reflects outside activities during the day and inside activities at night.

    • TYPICAL RESPONSES to day and night activities for a first grade class are...

      • Day: play, ride my bike, swim, play baseball, go to school, roller blade, play with my little sister...

      • Night: go to bed, watch TV, read a book, have a snack, play PlayStation, take a bath, brush my teeth...

    • Underlined represents the coral responses of the children. "During the day it is easier to see things because the sun is in the sky. But even Kindergarten kids know that eventually the sun must go down and day changes into night. At night your parents want you nearby so that they can see what you are doing because it is dark..."

  2. THE CAUSE OF DAY AND NIGHT IS THE RESULT OF THE THE EARTH SPINNING (ROTATING). The strategy of instruction slowly shifts to the cause of day and night rather than its effect.

    • WHERE ARE YOU? The teacher is sitting on a swivel chair. Students are asked the question "Where are you"? The correct response which is being sought is "in front of you" (the instructor). However, this response is virtually never achieved without the instructor eventually telling the children the answer.

    • TYPICAL RESPONSES ARE: the planetarium, ...on Earth, Allentown, a high school, space, ...on the rug. However, once the correct answer "in front of you" is divulged, students readily accept it as correct, and the lesson easily proceeds.

    • THE TEACHER NOW SPINS so that he/she faces in the opposite direction and the question is repeated again. The students now respond immediately, "in back of you." The example is repeated several times.

    • WHO’S REALLY SPINNING? The teacher, now looking completely confused, confronts the students with the fact that this cannot be happening if the students are simply sitting on the rug doing absolutely nothing at all. The students tell the teacher that she/he has been spinning, but the instructor claims that the students are crazy and they have been spinning. There is a vote taken to determine who has really been in motion. The teacher loses this one.

    • THE SPINNING EARTH: The same demonstration is again performed, but now the teacher becomes the Earth and the lightbulb represents the sun. The instructor’s eyes signify the location from which the observations are being made and his/her nose some geographical position such as the PP&L building or South Mountain. The instructor tells the students that the Earth spins.

      • So that when the sun is in front of Allentown, PA it is daytime.

      • When the sun is in back of Allentown, it is night. The sun is now shining on the other side of the world.


      • Pupils are asked to stand and turn around so that they are facing the lightbulb. A warning is given about playing this game with the real sun in the sky.

      • Students are now magically changed into Earths with their eyes being where they live. Their nose can become South Mountain or the PP&L building. They are asked to face the sun.

      • The question, "Is it daytime or nighttime is asked?" Students almost always respond with the correct answer of daytime. However, even with all of the aforementioned prepping, many pupils may still fail to grasp that they must physically spin around to make it nighttime. One of the most common incorrect answers for making it night is "turn off the lightbulb."

      • When the children perceive that they must physically spin to make it night, the instructor can make playing day and night into a game. The process becomes very mechanical until the teacher repeats the same period, such as day, twice. About half of the students goof, but then students listen more closely to what is being said.


      • When students know that Earth spins to make it day and night, another problem in conception quickly develops. Pupils will spin in one direction to make it night, then reverse their direction of spin to make it day. The Earth, of course, rotates in the same direction at all times.

      • The instructor demonstrates this problem, then introduces to his/her students numerous arrows which point in the correct counterclockwise direction of Earth’s rotation. As an additional reinforcement, students can be directed to hold their right arms out in front of them with their index fingers pointing in the correct direction of rotation.

      • Students are given a brief practice session where they can rotate in the proper counterclockwise direction.

      • The day and night exercise is repeated more slowly so that children can better understand that it is a complete rotation of the Earth which results in a day and night sequence.


      • Pupils are now told to rotate as fast as they can. They are instructed to keep their eyes open while spinning and to use their imaginations to try and make the room look like it is spinning. When the teacher tells them to stop, they are to rotate into a daytime position and stop. About 80 percent of the students have no trouble being able to visualize the room spinning rather than themselves.

      • The teacher then responds with much hand gesturing. "The sun rises--moves all the way across the sky, and then sets. Is the sun really moving?" Most students will respond with an emphatic no! "Then what makes it look as if the sun is really moving?" Students will indicate that it is the Earth which moves. "And what is the name of the motion which the Earth goes through?" The answer is almost always spinning or rotation.


      • Students are asked to face the sun and then queried as to what day of the week it is. They spin again and are asked the same question. The children normally respond with the following day.

      • If the starting point is near a weekend, have the students rotate through the weekend and tell them, "boy that was quick! We’re back to Monday again" If the starting point is near the beginning the of week, pupils can rotate to Saturday. Then tell the students to stop rotating forever so that it will always be Saturday. You’d be surprised how many of the students get the "joke."

    • Don’t forget to change all of those Earths in front of you back into human beings. You wouldn’t want them rolling around the streets after dark, would you? The children are now ready for the day and night program under the dome.