## Using Multicultural Dimensions to Teach Astronomy

Nalini Chandra & John Percy, University of Toronto

Activity 3: Measuring the Position of the Sun in the Sky

Purpose: To give students the opportunity to measure the position of the Sun in the sky using simple tools and methods.

Note: For safety reasons you may choose to use this exercise to have students measure the position of the Moon in the sky.

Materials: a hand (preferably, your own)

Procedure:

a) Read the Inuit example above to students.

b) Define horizon as the line along which the sky and land appear to meet.

c) Choose one part of the horizon to observe. Try to choose one with landmarks, to give students a common reference point.

d) Have them stretch out their arm and make a vertical fist (with the thumb on top), while looking directly at the horizon. (Their outstretched arm should be perpendicular to the horizon, and the imaginary lines, one running along their arm and one running from their neck to the top of their head, should make a 90 degree angle).

e) This discussion provides a good opportunity to review geometry terminology, since the bottom of the fist on the horizon to the top of the fist makes an angle of ten degrees.

f) Have students count how many fists they can fit between the horizon and the bottom of the Sun's disk.

When deciding when to make further observations, you should discuss the importance of keeping variables constant. For instance, the time of the day and the place from which they measure the angle and position of the Sun should be the same.

Alternatively, you may have students devise their own methods of relative measurement and apply them to measuring the position of the Sun in the sky.

Observing the Changing Position of the Sun To Establish a Seasonal Calendar in the Southern Hemisphere

The following example illustrates the reversal of the seasons in the southern hemisphere compared to the northern hemisphere. Considering that children have deep misconceptions about the Sun's motion in the sky, this story requires some discussion about how the Earth's rotation is the cause of the apparent motion of the Sun.

The New Zealand Maori display their understanding and observations of the connection between the solstices, the seasons and the position of the Sun in the sky in the following story. They say that "during the year the Sun roams from Rangi's head to his toes and back again. Rangi is the sky, and when the Sun is near Rangi's head it is summer in New Zealand. The Maori also say that the Sun is spending time with the Hine-raumati, the Summer Maid. He leaves her in December, around the time of the Summer solstice to go and live with Hine-takurua who is the Winter Maid. The Sun enjoys the company of Hine-takura until the June solstice, when it's time for him to head back to the land. There the Summer Maid is cultivating crops and preparing the game of the forest for the summer hunt. There are two things that should be highlighted for students in this story. First, the position of the Sun changes from high to low in the summer and winter respectively. Second, children should note that the months of summer and winter in New Zealand are opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere the summer months are in June to August in the southern hemisphere the summer months are December to February.

Activity 4: The Sun and the Seasons at Different Latitudes

Purpose: To understand the difference between seasons and the position of the Sun in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Procedure:

1. Read the Maori story to students.
2. If time is available, have students observe the position of the Sun in the sky over the course of the seasons. If time is limited, they may observe the changing position of the Sun on planetarium software. This would also allow them to compare position differences in different hemispheres as well.
3. Have students rewrite the Maori story to apply to the observation of the Sun and the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.