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What is a Sunset?

Sunsets are such a beautiful picture of color and we often stop to enjoy those moments of nature.  But, what is a sunset?  This simple experiment can help explain this gorgeous mixture of colors in the sky to children.

First ask the question, what is a sunset?

*This could be in a science journal.  Older children can write their answers and younger  children can draw.  Keeping a science journal is not just for the classroom, it can be a great way to document and cherish your child’s thoughts, writing and learning as they grow.

Then, “We are going to make our own sunsets in a glass of milky water.”

You will need:

Glass of water (beaker if you have it)

Milk

Flashlight

Spoon

Experiment:

1. Shine the flashlight through the glass of plain water. Ask, “What does it look like?”  (It looks white, like the sun when it is high in the sky.)

2. Pour a little milk into the glass of water and stir gently until it turns slightly white.  Have the children talk about what is happening.

3.  Ask what will happen when you flash the flashlight through the glass this time? then, Shine the flashlight through the water glass again. Observe, take notes and discuss what they see.  The light looks orange-red, just like the setting sun.

Explain: Particles of milk in the water cut out some of the colors in the light coming from the flashlight. Only the orange and red rays get through.  It is just like the dawn and dusk that we see with the real sun.  When the sun is low in the sky (morning and evening) its light passes through more air than at other times of the day. Tiny particles in the air stop a lot of the sun’s light.  The red and the orange light gets through.

If you are using a science journal (or writing this as a group on a board) write the question will adding milk change the light coming through?  Write your hypothesis and discuss as a group. If there are younger children or children that like to draw they can draw the experiment as it happens.  It would look like a step by step illustration. Complete the experiment and draw a conclusion.  After the results, have each child write if their hypothesis (or guess) was true.  Using this process even with the little ones drawing gets them acquainted with the scientific method.

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