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Sun Path Activity
The Sun Path exercise helps students gain an understanding of the movement of the sun throught the day, month and year. The Sun Path JAVA applet uses equations for a spherical Earth to calculate the sunrise and sunset times, the solar azimuth and solar altitude for any time of year and any latitude. The program can be run in yearly, monthly, daily, or hourly modes to create animations of the sun's path across the sky for different conditions and with different time resolutions. The example activity provided has students use Sun Path in the yearly mode to investigate seasonal changes in sunrise, sunset, length of day and sun altitude at their own latitude. Students learn to graph data, estimate their shadow length for their height and the sun's altitude and use trigonometry to check their shadow length results. This Starting Point page includes teaching notes and tips, teaching materials, assessment idea and additional resources and references.
Intended for grade levels:
  • High (9-12)
  • College (13-14)
  • College (15-16)
Type of resource:
  • For the classroom:
    • Computer activity
    • Guide for instructor
    • Module / Unit
  • Climatology
  • Educational theory and practice
Technical requirements:
Excel spreadsheet
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
The material on this site is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license as described here:
DLESE Catalog ID: SERC-STARTINGPOINT-000-000-000-046
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Contributor: Robert Mackay
Clark College