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Create Shade to Protect from the Sun

2 reviews


Grade Range
Group Size
2-3 students
Active Time
60 minutes
Total Time
75 minutes
Area of Science
Weather & Atmosphere
Key Concepts
Warm, cold, shade
Sabine De Brabandere, PhD, Science Buddies
Toy animals sit in cups with coverings over their heads


Students will enter this lesson knowing that materials get warm in the sun. In this fun follow-up activity, your students will get creative with craft materials. They will figure out how to protect an "animal" and its territory from getting too hot in the sun. What will they build to keep their animals cool?

This lesson connects effortlessly with the How Sunlight Warms the Earth lesson.

Learning Objectives

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Use tools and materials provided to design and build a device that solves a specific problem or a solution to a specific problem.

Developing and Using Models. Compare models to identify common features and differences.

Develop a simple model based on evidence to represent a proposed object or tool
Disciplinary Core Ideas
PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer Sunlight warms Earth's surface.
Crosscutting Concepts
Cause and Effect. Events have causes that generate observable patterns.


A cup of soil, a cup of rocks, a roll of tape, glue, plastic bags, construction paper, pipe cleaners and scissors

For each group of 2–3 students, you will need:

For the entire class, you will need:

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Background Information for Teachers

This section contains a quick review for teachers of the science and concepts covered in this lesson.

The Sun—the closest star to Earth—is essential for life on Earth. It is gigantic (more than 1 million times the volume of Earth), massive (about 330,000 times heavier than Earth) and, most importantly, is our main source of light and heat. Take the Sun away, and Earth would become a dark, frozen, lifeless ball floating around in space.

Photo of the sun shining bright orange between the clouds
Figure 1. The Sun provides Earth with light and warmth.

The light radiated by the Sun carries energy. When this light hits a surface, part of it gets absorbed and transformed into heat. This is why surfaces placed in the sun warm up. Once warmed up, these surfaces radiate heat. Earth's atmosphere retains and distributes this heat. This, together with the redistribution of heat by the oceans, keeps our planet at a temperature that supports life.

On a smaller scale, the warming of surfaces that receive direct sunlight can be uncomfortable or even dangerous. On a sunny day, a surface (e.g. rocks, soil, or concrete) in the sun can get extremely hot—too hot for some animals (like farm animals, cats, and dogs) and people. In the lesson How Sunlight Warms the Earth, students were taught that surfaces in the sun warm up. In this lesson, your students are challenged to protect a surface (an imaginary meadow) from this warming effect. They are given a variety of craft supplies including opaque and translucent materials. The key is to block visible light from reaching that surface. People and animals do this by seeking shelter from the sun in burrows or caves, under trees, under tents or umbrellas, or in buildings.

Prep Work (5 minutes)

Engage (10 minutes)

Explore (40 minutes)

Reflect (10 minutes)


Make Career Connections

Free science fair projects.