Review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2014
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DIY Sun Science

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Exciting astronomy resource brightens learning in the classroom

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-8
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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5 images

Pros: Great hands-on activities, gorgeous images, videos, and a sun observatory are all in one convenient location.

Cons: Kids don't have an opportunity to assess what they have learned.

Bottom Line: Excellent, free reference tool inspires and teaches kids about the sun.

In the classroom, DIY Sun Science could be used to plan and conduct hands-on activities related to astronomy lessons about the sun. Prepare materials ahead of time and have kids work in small groups to complete the activities. It's probably a good idea to review an activity's Summary and Instructions as a class before kids get started. Review the Explanation section and watch any related videos as a class after each activity. It could also be fun to have kids check out the live images in the Sun Observatory each day over a period of time and discuss any changes they observe.

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DIY Sun Science is a free NASA-funded reference tool that's packed with information and activities related to the sun. Kids can tap to explore three different areas within the app: Activities, Images and Videos, or the Sun Observatory. The 13 hands-on activities are each organized into sections that make it easy to plan and conduct the activity. The Summary section gives an overview of the activity's objective, age level appropriateness, and a breakdown of the time required for preparation, activity completion, and cleanup. The Materials section includes a bulleted materials list and any applicable safety precautions. The Instructions section includes step-by-step instructions, along with pictures that illustrate how to do each step. This is extremely helpful if kids are doing the activities on their own or in small groups. And the Explanation section presents the science behind the activity, includes links to related videos from the app, and occasionally offers an extension activity.

The Images and Videos page includes an image gallery and several videos that teach kids more detailed information about the sun. The Sun Observatory shows live images of the sun from a NASA satellite. Kids can move a slider to compare images, and then tap a Learn button to read more about the sun. A Puzzle button challenges kids to match images of the sun with the correct term.

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With DIY Sun Science, kids can learn just about anything related to the sun. The hands-on activities are a great learning approach since kids tend to remember more by doing, and the follow-up explanations do a fantastic job of detailing the science behind the activities. You will have to put in some extra planning and prep work to gather and set up materials for the activities, and kids will likely need supervision while completing the steps. However, everything is very well organized, and most materials can be found around the house or classroom.

By completing the activities and watching the videos, kids can learn about a wide range of topics, including solar storms, solar flares, the sun's diameter, ultraviolet light, solar energy, and much more. Formal assessments aren't part of the app's learning experience, so you'll need to create your own if desired.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The images, videos, and observatory will spark plenty of interest; hands-on activities are meant to fully engage kids in the learning experience, but completing them requires work beyond the app.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Learning directly from the app is based mostly on memorization -- kids read and view videos to learn about the sun. The explanations that follow the activities do an excellent job of reinforcing concepts.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Information is clearly presented, and scientific explanations support learning. Extension activities are provided in some cases.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Donna M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Vista Visions Academy
Vista, CA
Great for engaging students and families in learning about the Sun.

DIY Sun Science is an app that contains several different hands-on activities for students to do, all designed to learn more about the Sun. While the activities require outside materials, the set-up and procedures are well-written and easy to follow. I have used these as small group activities. The high quality follow-up videos are produced by NASA, and explain the concepts deeper than have been introduced by the hands-on activity. The app was posted on our school website (K-12) and several parents of elementary and middle school students commented that they appreciated the opportunity to engage in these activities with their children. While the activities can be used as stand-alone experiences, they can be integrated into a more complex unit of instruction.

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