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Star Light Star Bright

Grades: 5-8
Author: Tess Ewart


Module Description

As a result of this presenter-conducted module, participants will use Internet resources to explore the nature of the electromagnetic spectrum. Participants will correlate images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other astronomical instruments to the wavelength, color and temperature information that can be found in the spectrum. Participants will design a lesson that uses inquiry-based internet resources to use in their classroom.


  • Participants will explain how light is a form of energy that travels in waves.
  • Participants will describe how different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum (such as ultraviolet, visible, infrared, radio) correspond to specific wavelengths and frequencies of electromagnetic waves.
  • Participants will explain how the electromagnetic spectrum can be used to determine the temperature of stars.
  • Participants will design and implement in their classrooms a lesson that uses inquiry-based internet resources.



Computers with an Internet connection and color monitor

Lesson Plan Template


**This professional development module is based on the Ohio Resource Center lesson #8046 and therefore contains the lesson plan as found on the ORC web site. The module writer acknowledges the scholarly work of the lesson plan author(s) and does not claim any connection to the writing of the lesson plan. **


Have the participants use a prism, or diffraction grating, to separate white light into a spectrum. Then discuss why the light can be separated in that manner and how that could help scientists learn about objects in space.

Assessment: Participants' discussion.


Go to:

Click on URL under GO TO RESOURCE.

Click Back to the Lesson to begin.

Have the participants jigsaw the "Catch the Waves", "Making Waves", and "Heating Up" module sections.

Assessment: Participant activity results.


Participants should share the information with the group that they learned in the module section they completed.

Assessment: Participants' discussion.


Have participants discuss ways that they could use Internet resources and inquiry in their classroom settings. Internet resources that give background information and/or data tables, but do not have the audience focused on exploration activities or problem solving may be valuable teacher-tools. These types of resources are not the focus in this module and should be avoided as the central element of the teachers' planning of this classroom implementation activity. See the extensions for some suggestions of appropriate sites.

  • Participants should complete a lesson plan template for a lesson that addresses grade level content indicators and involves internet resources and inquiry for use in their classroom. See Lesson Plan Template handout.
  • Further and on-going collaboration among participants should be encouraged.


From AGPA's best practices: Our society is developing new technology constantly, and one can particularly argue for the inclusion of computers and multimedia tools into classrooms on the simple justification of student literacy. A more powerful reason is that it provides teachers and students with tools to enhance learning in the traditional content areas.

Inquiry is the most abstract yet most scientific of all of the best practices in science. Inquiry is a method of approaching problems that is used by professional scientists but is helpful to anyone who scientifically addresses matters encountered in everyday life. Inquiry is based on the formation of hypotheses and theories and on the collection of relevant evidence. There is no set order to the steps involved in inquiry, but children need to use logic to devise their research questions, analyze their data, and make predictions. When using the inquiry methods of investigation, children learn that authorities can be wrong and that any question is reasonable.

The most abstract component of inquiry is imagination. Both students and professional scientists have to be able to look at scientific information and data in a creative way. This unconventional vision allows them to see patterns that might not otherwise be obvious.

Teachers can incorporate inquiry approaches to learning, for example, by allowing small groups of students to explore a particular natural phenomenon that might exhibit certain trends or patterns. The children can then reconvene as a class, discuss their observations, and compile a list of several different hypotheses from this discussion. Each group can choose a hypothesis to investigate. Several groups might choose to replicate the same study to reduce the bias effects of any one group's techniques. Depending on their age, children might design their own experimental apparatus, use probes attached to computers, or employ sophisticated software to analyze data or create charts and graphs. Data based predictions can be the foundation for further investigation.

Star Light, Star Bright provides participants with an example of an interactive and flexible learning environment that allows participants to follow their curiosity and to learn at their own pace.

Science Standards

NSES CONTENT STANDARD A: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of the following Science as Inquiry topics:

  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation.
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.

NSES CONTENT STANDARD B: As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of the following Physical Science Transfer of Energy topics:

  • The sun is a major source of energy for changes on the earth's surface. The sun loses energy by emitting light. A tiny fraction of that light reaches the earth, transferring energy from the sun to the earth. The sun's energy arrives as light with a range of wavelengths, consisting of visible light, infrared, and ultraviolet radiation.

NETS #3 : Technology productivity tools

  • Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.

NETS #5 : Technology research tools

  • Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD A: Professional development for teachers of science requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry. Science learning experiences for teachers must:

  • Involve teachers in actively investigating phenomena that can be studied scientifically, interpreting results, and making sense of findings consistent with currently accepted scientific understanding.
  • Address issues, events, problems, or topics significant in science and of interest to participants.
  • Introduce teachers to scientific literature, media, and technological resources that expand their science knowledge and their ability to access further knowledge.
  • Build on the teacher's current science understanding, ability, and attitudes.
  • Incorporate ongoing reflection on the process and outcomes of understanding science through inquiry.
  • Encourage and support teachers in efforts to collaborate.

NSES PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARD B: Professional development for teachers of science requires integrating knowledge of science, learning, pedagogy, and students; it also requires applying that knowledge to science teaching. Learning experiences for teachers of science must:

  • Connect and integrate all pertinent aspects of science and science education.

Best Teaching Practices

  • Technology
  • Inquiry

Time Frame

1.5 - 2 hours

The amount of time needed to complete any of these module sections will vary depending on such factors as the length of available teaching time and the number of computers to the number of participants who need to use them. The following are estimated times:

  • "Catch the Waves" -- 40 minutes
  • "Making Waves" -- 20 minutes
  • "Heating Up" -- 40 minutes
  • "Stellar Encounters" -- 40 minutes

"Catch the Waves", "Making Waves", and "Heating Up" can be jig-sawed in order to save time. However, "Stellar Encounters" should be done by all participants.


Notify the participants in advance to bring their curriculum guide/map or textbook to facilitate their development of an implementation plan.

Make sure all computers have an Internet connection and browser.

Preview the science background information and become familiar with each of the four module sections: "Catch the Waves," "Making Waves," "Heating Up," and "Stellar Encounters." When looking at these module sections, special attention can be given to examining such features as "Light Facts," "Brain Teasers," "What do you Know?" and "Beats Me-You Explain It."

Book mark the activity on the computers or provide an easily accessible link.


Before attempting to complete this lesson, the participants should:

  • Have a general understanding of the visible light spectrum.

Know that light can be reflected, refracted, or absorbed by an object.


No special precautions are necessary for handling or disposing of the materials in this lesson.


Assessments can be found at the end of each learning cycle stage. For an overall assessment, use the assessment that is found on the ORC website as shown below.

At the end of each of the modules, "Catch the Waves," Making Waves," and Heating Up," there is an activity called "What Do You Know?" that summarizes key lesson ideas. Also included is a more challenging level of thinking called "Beats Me-You Explain It." This activity asks the participant a series of thought provoking application type of questions related to the concepts that were developed in the module. "Stellar Encounters" is an assessment module that bases its information on what has been learned in the other three modules. Here, the participants are asked to apply their knowledge in a way that astronomers would use it to interpret the light received from distant stars and galaxies.

Questions | Answers

Questions | Answers

Questions | Answers





Catch the Waves

- 1 a / b / c
- 2 a
- 3 a
- 4 a / b

- 1 a / b / c
- 2 a
- 3 a
- 4 a / b

Making Waves

- 5 a / b

- 5 a / b

Heating Up

- 6 a / b / c
- 7 a

- 6 a / b / c
- 7 a

Stellar Encounters

- 8 a / b

- 8 a / b

Explanation of Science

See handouts at bottom.




From the Ohio Resource Center Lesson #8046:

Follow-up Activities / Interdisciplinary Connections:

Participants may be given new images and data found at the Space Telescope Science Institute home page. This could be shown directly to the class using an overhead projector and a LCD or television monitor. This information could also be printed out as a paper copy to be analyzed and compared to what they have learned about light and the electromagnetic spectrum in the "Star Light Star Bright" computer lesson. Picture images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope are also available at your closest NASA Educator Resource Center.

Connections to other disciplines can be used to broaden classroom discussion of the general principles learned in Star Light, Star Bright.

  • Biology: In the "Brain Teasers" and "Beats Me-You Explain It" sections, are included questions that relate to subjects, such as biology. Here are the questions that connect with Biology:
    • Q: Snakes' eyes are sensitive to infrared radiation. This makes them good hunters at night in the dark. Why?
    • Q: Bees have eyes that see ultraviolet radiation as well as visible light. If you were a flower who wanted only bees and not moths to visit you, what could you do to make sure bees (and not moths) get the message?
    • Q: Humans are nearly blind to most wavelengths of light. If you lost your ability to see visible light, but could choose another wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum, what would you choose? Describe how you would see the world around you.
    • Q: When you have an X-ray taken at the hospital, and you see your bones on the photographic plate, what are you really looking at? Hint: It's not your bones that you see!
    • Q: Just like the invisible light waves that we cannot see with our eyes, are there sound waves that our ears don't hear?
  • English: Ask students to write rainbow poems or stories.
  • Social Studies: Have students research how different cultures have looked at rainbows and their explanations for what caused them.
  • General science: Do a rainbow bubble lab. Students working in small teams blow half dome bubbles with a straw on a cafeteria tray. The classroom lights above will appear as mini rainbows on the surface of the bubble. Students observe how the rainbow changes in appearance with time and with size of the bubble.
  • Math: Student can graph their data from the bubble experiment. They can plot size of the bubble versus the time it lasts; size of the bubble versus the time the rainbows last.

Lesson Implementation Template

Download Lesson Implementation Template: Word Document or PDF File


Issues to consider are the following: seating so everyone can see the display, make sure every person participates in discussions, and grouping with diversity in mind.


From the Ohio Resource Center Lesson #8046:

  • One Computer Classroom:

It is recommended that teachers project the images from the computer onto a classroom screen using an overhead LCD or television screen. To facilitate a more organized and predictable large group presentation and not encounter last minute glitches that can always occur when using a computer, the following are some suggestions you might want to consider. Bookmark a selected part of the lesson such as one of the modules that you wish to use and download it onto your hard disk. This will eliminate the inconvenience of unexpectedly going off the Internet. Another way to prepare is to print ahead of time selected parts of the lesson as paper copies. Possible choices to consider might include "Light Facts," "Brain Teasers," "What Do You Know," and "Beats Me-You Explain It." Students can use this information to do additional research on a question or topic area that interests them.

  • Classrooms Without Computers:

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Teachers may print the "Light Facts," "Brain Teasers," "What Do You Know," and "Beats Me-You Explain It" sections in the Star Light, Star Bright lesson to make transparencies. Questions included in these sections can be used as introduction to the light and color unit or at the end as an assessment exercise.
  2. NASA has available FREE at your closest NASA Educator Resource Center a poster called: "The Electromagnetic Spectrum" which can be used as a teaching tool in the classroom.
  3. Classroom demonstrations that relate to the topic of light and color include:
    1. using a diffraction grating to demonstrate that visible light can be broken into its component colors.
    2. using a spectrum analysis power supply and tubes to demonstrate that different gases produce different spectra.
    3. attaching one end of a rope to a door knob to create waves by moving one end of the rope up and down.
  4. If your school has one or more computers located outside your classroom, i.e. library, computer lab, students may experience the lesson individually or in small groups as a learning station or as a supplement to your light and color unit.

Nowadays, many students have computers at home with access to the Internet. If that's the case with your students, you may want to consider assigning sections of the Star Light, Star Bright lesson as homework.


From the Ohio Resource Center Lesson #8046:

Educator's Information:

  • Name: Liz Dover
  • School: Sykesville Middle School
  • Address: 7301 Springfield Avenue, Sykesville, MD 21784
  • Years teaching: 3
  • Areas of expertise: Earth Science.

Educator's Information:

  • Name: Linda Webb
  • School: Jarrettsville & North Bend Elementary
  • Address: 1445 North Bend Road, Jarrettsville, MD 21084
  • Years teaching: 11
  • Area of expertise: Elementary Education / GT Education

Educator's Information:

  • Name: Anuradha Koratkar
  • Institution: Space Telescope Science Institute
  • Address: 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218
  • Area(s) of expertise: Centers of Active Galaxies


  • Henbest , Nigel and Michael Marten, The New Astronomy Second Edition , Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • This book provides an explanation of images in all wavelengths as well as thorough information regarding electromagnetic radiation.
  • Kuhn , Karl F. , The Quest of the Universe, West Publishing Company, 1991.
  • Chapter 4 provides background information on light and the electromagnetic spectrum, including mathematical formulas for determining wavelength, Doppler shift, Wein's Law , etc.
  • Space Based Astronomy, NASA, 1994.
  • Griffith, Mary, The Homeschooling Handbook, Prima Publishing, CA, 1997.
  • A book with information and resources for homeschoolers.