Friday, January 9, 2009

The Clinometer Activity

So, you've taught altitude and azimuth. Your students have made their Clinometers. They know how to use them.

What next? You're ready to start your school-year-long observation activity!

Here's a good first day introduction:
  1. Beforehand, you should have drawn or taped long north-south lines in your parking lot/playground. This makes using the compass rose easier and is a good way to keep your students semi-under control! They tend to stay near the lines. If you are very lucky, your parking lot has natural North-South lines and you can convince the teachers to leave one area free all year. I didn't have that luck so drew my own with heavy tape.
  2. Before you take your students outside, it's a good idea to cover the rules and consequences. I always told my students that the first time was a test. Mainly, they must be very quiet in the hall on the way outside. As soon as they are outside, they must walk directly to the north-south line and get set up and take their measurements. No delays! Take and record both measurements. Line up at a certain spot when you are done. You have a total of 5 (or whatever) minutes to take the measurements and be lined up to go back inside. Consequences were, they didn't go outside the next day, but sat out in the hall by a neighboring teacher and waited for us to return. Worked pretty well for me. I certainly had my share of "hall sitters" over the years! They want to go outside, so they clean up their act quickly! REPEAT A CAUTION TO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN!
  3. If you have to lock your door--I always did--then you are at the end of the line. You could tell them before you left that by the time you get outside, they should ALL be at work taking their measurements.
  4. Walk around with a clipboard with a list of names. I usually had them groups by teams, if I was using teams. There are a certain amount of Behavior Points that go on the Weekly Points that are unrelated to the grade for this activity. Another good management trick! Record points for good participation, etc. You may have to help a few of the groups. They may need reminders as to proper use of the rose or clinometer.
  5. Once all are lined up, remind them about being quiet in the hall and head back in.
  6. Once they are all back in and seated, tell them that from now on, they get to come in and record their readings on the chalkboard, whiteboard, etc. Perhaps each group has a different person record each day.
  7. HERE'S THE FUN PART. You have gone to this sight earlier and actually know what their measurements should be! Once you have all of the numbers up on a chart, have a volunteer take the average of each. Tell them how close the average is to the "real" azimuth and altitude. If you have "crafty" ones who check on the "real" numbers at home on the computer, this is why you walk around a lot outside to observe if they are all taking measurements. I never had any do this that I could tell.
  8. Have someone record the class average on the class data table. Each team records their own measurements on their labsheet. There are places for each class you teach during the day so you end up with a good bunch of hours of measurements by the end of the week.
  9. At the end of the week, they will make a graph of one day's data. Have them project the lines to the horizon at each end, for sunrise and sunset using dashed lines.

Some of the concepts learned early on:

  1. The curved line they graph on Friday shows the sunrise, sunset, and sun in sky for one day.
  2. The sunrise is almost NEVER at east, nor sunset at west. This is a BIG surprise to them!
  3. Once you get a few of them, have them compare two graphs at least one month apart. They will see the arc rising or falling at the highest point, depending if it's moving toward summer or winter.
  4. The length of the line corresponds to the length of daylight.

Very powerful stuff!

FUN LINKS: Click here for Weekly LabSheet for this year-long activity.
Click here for a good Azimuth & Altitude Worksheet.
Click here for a good Azimuth & Altitude Quiz.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You eventually want your students to get tired of using two instruments. You want them to eventually figure out how to combine the rose and the clinometer! Don't tell them this the first week! Keep your ears open and point out comments that relate to this without too much hinting to the solution. But after a couple of weeks, you're going to want to take a day and have them design and construct a new instrument, combining the two into one. Much easier to use! Also nice way to avoid them looking at the sun, because the little sun spot shines down on the compass rose.

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