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The ‘sun rises’ and the 'sun sets’. The 'sun rises’ and the 'sun sets’. This rhythm sets the daily pattern in our lives. More than 93 million miles away, sunlight reaches the Earth in 499 seconds (8.33 minutes) in the form of heat and light energy that gives us life on Earth. It delivers light energy that provides electrical charges to solar cells, thermal energy via passive solar heating, and chemical energy through solar water splitting in photosynthesis. Sunlight energizes plant cells to remove carbon dioxide from the air, combine it with water, produce sugar, and other carbohydrates as energy. Plants, from the tiny diatoms in the ocean to the phytoplankton that feeds zooplankton in water, ignite the food web from herbivores(plant-eating) to carnivores(animal eating). Sunlight transmits invisible radiation or infrared light as heat to the Earth’s atmosphere, where it is absorbed and warms the planet, reflected by clouds of dust, or transmits directly through the atmosphere on a clear sunny day. Watch the sun’s energy charge the Earth’s climate. Humans are drawn to light and have made use of natural light to illuminate the spaces where they work and live since the very beginning. Daylight stimulates the mind and connects us with nature.

Let there be light!

Activity 1 – The Sun and Sources of Energy

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Sunlight is essential to life on earth. It allows life to exist and provides sources for most of the energy types humans use. Energy from the sun directly provides renewable solar, wind, and biomass energy sources. It creates our weather, moving air across our globe, and creates ocean currents. Fossil fuels are the product of decomposed plants and animals, which in turn store chemical energy over millions of years and release as coal, oil, and natural gas. In addition to providing energy, the sun’s energy warms the earth to the point that it is habitable balancing heat radiation in with radiation released through reflection, keeping the earth’s temperature relatively constant. This balance is known as the earth’s Energy Budget. Draw a diagram of the radiation from the sun and the reflection of radiation back into space.

Activity 2 – The dance of the sun and the earth

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The earth revolves around the sun. The half of the earth facing the sun is in sunrise, noon and sunset time. The half away from the sun is in dusk and night. The earth rotates as it revolves around the sun in solar days on a tilted axis. The time of one revolution is one year or 365. 26 days. The earth’s tilt, as it rotates around its axis gives us our 24 hour day. Look at the rotation and see how the earth’s tilt bring its closer to the sun during the Perihelion stage and further from the sun during the Aphelion stage.

Watch The Reasons for the seasons.

sunlight: light cast on the earth by the sun
sun position: direction sun points towards a particular structure or space and the angle it appears in the sky above the horizon line.
day lighting: the use of the sunlight to light a space to minimize use of artificial lighting

Draw the sun in a diagram with the rotation of the earth. Label the miles between the sun and the earth at the Perihelion stage and the Aphelion stage. Label the equinoxes.

Activity 3 – Shadow Watch

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The light of the sun allows us to see. Light from the sun is actually the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum, or waves of charged particles that travel at the speed of light: 186,000 miles per second (220,000 kilometers per second). Watch this TEDed video, Light waves, visible and invisible. Our eyes capture thousands of edges or lines per second and reflect their light back into our eyes. The edges or lines are focused onto our retina and then to our brain and form memories of images. When the sunrises, forms become articulated textures

Pick a room in your house that has windows facing south so that during the day, sunlight spills into the room. On an 11 x 17 piece of paper, make a chart for the 24 hours of a day. Set a camera in the room in a place where it cannot be moved. Take one picture every hour of the day…and night!!! Print your pictures in a series and see how the mood and atmosphere of the room changes with the presence or absence of sunlight. Draw the view in the morning, at noon, at 6 pm, and in the evening. Look at the change in values, views, and detail definition.

Illustrate illumination!

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Activity 4 – Sunlight and the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Sunlight is the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is made up of different wavelength that we see as different colors when like the light we see in a rainbow. Each color has a different wavelength. Red has the longest wavelength and violet has the shortest wavelength. When all waves are seen together, they make white light. When white light shines through the prism, the light is broken part in to the colors of the visible light spectrum. Water vapor in the atmosphere can also break apart the wavelengths creating a rainbow. Look at COLOR and learn more about color meanings and types of color. Watch the TEDed How we see color. Draw the different colors in a rainbow and then the different wavelengths of the colors.

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Activity 5 – Light reactions

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We see because of light. To be seen, objects must reflect light or emit light. Sunlight falls onto surfaces and is absorbed (as on a black roof), reflected (as from a mirror), or transmitted (passing through clear glass). When light is reflected, the incoming angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. Refracted light is light that is bent or changes direction. Light in a prism is refracted. Sometimes, depending on the surface of the material or lens sunlight hits, light can scatter in multiple angles at one time. Diffraction is a slight bending of light around the edge of an object. Draw the different behaviors of light in your journal and submit them to the gallery.

translucent: material that allows partial transmission of light
transparent: material that allows 100% of light to pass through
opaque: material that blocks 100% of light passing through

Activity 6 – Light Wall

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Begin with a large sheet of foam core. Thinking about windows, cut openings into the foam core of different shapes and sizes. Cover the openings with an assortment of papers and common materials you find around your house, then tape them to the foam core on the backside. Some materials to use include newspaper, foil, waxed paper, typing or tracing paper, toilet paper, paper towel, tape, translucent plastic, grids, and different scraps of cloth. Take a flashlight and shine the light through the materials. On the front side, label whether the material absorbs, reflects or transmits light. Paste an opaque, translucent, reflective, and transparent material in your journal and label each of them. Moving from hand to mouse, draw simple opaque or solid walls using Sketchup FREE. Experiment with different shapes, and patterns of openings. Shine the sun through your ways and see how the sun enters through the wall with the openings you have made! Let the sunshine in for light, warmth, and heat. Temper it with shades, curtains, scrims, shutters, and blackout blinds to keep the inside cool. Know your sunlight!

Reflect, refract, transmit, absorb!

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Activity 7 – Light Box

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Find an empty box, preferably all white. Take the top of the box off and set the box on its side. On the remaining five sides, design openings in the box from above, on the sides and from the bottom. Make some of the openings linear, others in a pattern, or repetitive shapes. Place an object inside of your box. Cut the openings with an Exacto knife keeping the edges of the opening clean. Take a flashlight and shine the light outside of the box while looking into the box. See how the direction and source of the light change the effect of the space and the mood of the displayed object. Show your magic lightbox to a friend!

Create some shadows of your own with the lightbox on the right!

Make light magic!

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  • Natural lighting is light that comes from the sun.
  • Light travels at 200,000 miles per hour.
  • The visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is made up of the colors of the rainbow.
  • When different colors of light are mixed together, the light becomes white.
  • Light is necessary to see.
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