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					                   NORTHERN LIGHTS
                   Auroras Borealis and Australis




Overview

Saskatchewan has on its license plates, the slogan “Land of Living Skies”. One of the many reasons that
our skies are described as “living” is a phenomenon known as the aurora borealis or northern lights. First
Nations people were so awestruck by these evening displays that they named the aurora “the pathway to
heaven”. This phenomenon occurs and can be seen year-round in Saskatchewan although it is more
noticeable in the winter when the nights are longer.

Objectives

       Students will learn about the wonder, causes and effects of northern lights displays
       Students will discover that there is energy in the northern lights
       Students will practice using the Internet to research and gather data on this phenomenon
       Students will prepare a large poster on the topic and an oral presentation.

Resources / Materials

       A digital projector (optional) hooked up to the Internet for accessing the Northern Lights online
        movie and slide show.
       A Computer Lab with enough computers for students to work in pairs or alone and access to the
        World Wide Web.

Procedure

Part One

Introduce the topic of the aurora or northern lights by reading aloud the Canadian Eskimo legend about
them reported by the explorer Ernest W. Hawkes in his book, The Labrador Eskimo:

                    The ends of the land and sea are bounded by an immense abyss,
                        over which a narrow and dangerous pathway leads to the
                       heavenly regions. The sky is a great dome of hard material
                      arched over the Earth. There is a hole in it through which the
                      spirits pass to the true heavens. Only the spirits of those who
                    have died a voluntary or violent death, and the raven, have been
                       over this pathway. The spirits who live there light torches to
                       guide the feet of new arrivals. This is the light of the aurora.
                       They can be seen there feasting and playing football with a
                                                  walrus skull.
                    The whistling crackling noise which sometimes accompanies the
                        aurora is the voices of these spirits trying to communicate
                     with the people of the Earth. They should always be answered
                         in a whispering voice. Youths dance to the aurora. The
                     heavenly spirits are called selamiut, "sky-dwellers," those who
                                                live in the sky.

More stories by other cultural groups are found at: Auroral Legends and can be added if desired.



                      SPSD Online Learning Centre –   http://olc.spsd.sk.ca
                    NORTHERN LIGHTS
                    Auroras Borealis and Australis




Follow the reading of the story by showing students what the aurora looks like – use the digital projector
and the online movie found at: Nordly’s Northern Lights. Additionally, you may wish to show students the
online aurora slide show at: Jan Curtis’s Web Site – Images of the Aurora. Note: Slides will change
automatically after 8 seconds – be patient!

As there is no talking soundtrack with either the movie or the slides, ask the following questions during
the showing or have these questions placed on the board for students to look for and answer following
the viewing.

       What colors seem to be most common in the northern lights displays?
       Describe in two or three word phrases, the different shapes you have seen?
       What words or word phrases might you use to describe how the northern lights move or “dance”
        in the sky
       Do you think there is energy in the lights? What do you think they really are?

Part Two

Students now form pairs to research the Northern Lights in an attempt to answer as many of the
questions as possible:

       What is the actual cause of Northern Lights displays?
       Is there a month, season or best time of year to see them?
       Describe some of the more common legends and folklore about the Northern Lights
       What are the common shapes, forms and colors of northern lights displays?
       Are there any differences or similarities between Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis?
       Do the Northern Lights Make Sound and Can You Hear that sound when you are watching?
       Is there any way to harness or use the electrical energy in a northern light display?
       What is the connection between sunspots on our sun and northern light displays on earth?
       Can we forecast where and when Northern Lights will occur? How?

Part Three

The following Internet sites are provided for students to visit when looking for the answers to the above
research questions.

       Aurora Borealis- The Northern Lights – These are nine separate web pages about the northern
        lights, each page dealing with one aspect of this spectacular phenomenon.
       Auroras: the Northern and Southern Lights – A very basic but complete explanation of both
        northern and southern aurora by the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of Tennessee.
       The Aurora – The Basics – A very readable and simplistic explanation of aurora from Earth
        Science Australia.
       Introducing the Aurora – Earth’s Great Light Show – from Athena Earth and Space Science Web
        Site, K-12
       Northern Lights – Athropolis Links – A series of links about the Northern Lights phenomena
        suitable for children and family viewing.




                      SPSD Online Learning Centre –    http://olc.spsd.sk.ca
                    NORTHERN LIGHTS
                    Auroras Borealis and Australis




   Newton’s Apple Aurora Borealis – A great explanation of the aurora complete with links to other sites.
    A lesson plan explaining the electrical nature of the light phenomena and four “Try This”
    investigations.
   Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights – Arizona State Library Science Reference Room collection of
    web links and lesson plans on the northern lights.

Part Four

Each pair of students now prepare a three to five minute talk and a large poster about the northern
lights which illustrates and answers as many of the following questions as possible.

Adaptations / Extensions

       The South Dakota Department of Education has a very useful web page entitled Aurora Borealis
        – The Northern Lights. It describes interdisciplinary activities relating to the study of the northern
        lights.
       Thursday’s Classroom – has produced two lesson plans on the northern lights suitable for
                                 nd   th                            th    th
        younger students (2 – 4 grade) and older students (5 – 8 grade)
       NASA has produced an Educators Guide entitled Northern Lights and Solar Sprites which
        contains a series of 13 lesson plans exploring solar storms and space science. Lesson plans #’s
        7,8, and 9 are very adaptable for use in the Energy in Our Lives unit.
       Students might wish to make an acrostic poem about the Northern Lights. A lesson plan
        explaining this can be found at Thursday’s Classroom.
       Newton’s Apple Aurora Borealis – A great explanation of the aurora complete with links to other
        sites. A lesson plan explaining the electrical nature of the light phenomena and four “Try This”
        investigations.
       It is not difficult to photograph the northern lights. To do this, you will need a digital or 35 mm
        camera, a tripod and clear skies with a northern light display. To learn more details about how it
        is done, visit: Beginner’s Guide to Northern Lights Photography and Aurora Photo Tips.

Evaluation

    1. Student evaluation should be based on their three to five minute oral presentations and the
       number of questions they were able to answer and their poster should be evaluated for
       readability, legibility, accuracy and layout.

    2. See evaluation rubric on the following page.




                      SPSD Online Learning Centre –     http://olc.spsd.sk.ca
            NORTHERN LIGHTS
            Auroras Borealis and Australis




                     Evaluation Rubric – Northern Lights Lesson Plan

                 Beginning         Developing      Accomplished        Exemplary        Score
                     1                 2                3                  4
Students will Student does
                                                                     Student has a
learn about    not know that      Student knows      Student has a
                                                                          clear
the wonder,     solar activity     that sunspots         clear
                                                                     understanding
causes and     and sunspots        and northern understanding of
                                                                    and can explain
  effects of  are related and    light activity are the connection
                                                                    the connection
  northern      would have        connected and        between
                                                                        between
    lights        difficulty        can explain     northern lights
                                                                     northern lights
  displays    explaining what     some of those       activity and
                                                                      activity and
              causes northern       connections        sunspots
                                                                       sunspots
                    lights
                                                                        Student is
                                   Student is
Students will                                      Student is aware     aware that
                                aware that there
discover that     Student is                          that there is   northern lights
                                    is some
   there is     unaware that                       electrical energy are a form of
                                   electrical
energy in the   northern lights                    in northern lights    electrical
                                   energy in
  northern       are a form of                     and can begin to energy and can
                                 northern lights
    lights         electrical                      explain why and explain in some
                                but would have
                    energy                          how the energy detail why and
                                    difficulty
                                                         works        how the energy
                                  explaining it.
                                                                          works

Students will                    Student collects Student collects Student collects
               Student does
   practice                           very little    some basic     a great deal of
              not collect any
   using the                       information –   information –   information - all
              information on
  Internet to                     some relates to most relates to    relates to the
                the topic. Is
research and                     the topic. Some the topic. Many topic. All of the
                  unable to
 gather data                     of the questions of the questions questions have
              answer most of
    on this                          have been       have been     been answered
               the questions
phenomenon                           answered        answered.


Students will                 Poster and oral Poster and oral
                                                               Poster and oral
  prepare a Poster was non- presentation         presentation
                                                                presentation
large poster    existent and were completed were quite well
                                                                    were
 on the topic       oral        – both could     done – both
                                                                exceptionally
 and an oral   presentation      have been     showed evidence
                                                                well planned
presentation. poorly executed better with more of planning and
                                                                and executed
                                preparation      preparation




                SPSD Online Learning Centre –   http://olc.spsd.sk.ca

				
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