This unit plan shows how teacher Melissa Coton extended her year 5/6 students’ learning about light by engaging them in learning about light pollution at night.
Students first learned about light: light waves travel in straight lines, shadows, colours in the visible spectrum and how light waves behave – reflection, refraction and diffraction. They then extended their learning about light to explore light pollution and its impacts.
To collect scientific data about light pollution in their area, students engaged with the online citizen science project Globe at Night. Although overcast skies meant they weren’t able to gather their own data, as planned, teacher Melissa did get some 3am photos that the students evaluated. They also compared the Globe at Night data with data collected from satellites. A core focus of this part of the unit was developing the science capability ‘Critique evidence’.
Read more about Melissa’s experiences implementing the unit in this case study.
Download the Word file (see link below).
This activity gives you step-by-step instructions on how to make a hologram-like projector.
Related citizen science project
Loss of the Night is a free, easy-to-use app that helps users locate eight stars that should be visible in the local night sky. App users indicate how well they can see each star. The purpose is to monitor skyglow and light pollution.
These citizen science projects could be used in an astronomy unit focused on the planet Mars:
This unit plan was developed by teacher Melissa Coton as part of the Citizen Scientists in the Classroom education research project funded through the Ministry of Education’s Teaching & Learning Research Initiative.
The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand has a Dark Skies Group that advocates for minimising light pollution, arguing: “Outdoor lighting in New Zealand, as part of Urban Design, is in urgent need of review to ensure minimal wastage of energy and to minimise impacts on human health and natural and cultural systems.” Explore this view, as well as their information on light pollution and monitoring our night skies, which contains useful information about other methods for investigating light pollution.
With less light pollution, there are many great areas for stargazing in New Zealand. The areas below are of particular note:
- Aoraki-Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – the largest gold standard International Dark Sky Reserve in the world. This gained its dark sky designation in 2012.
- Aotea/Great Barrier International Dark Sky Sanctuary – in 2017, this became the first island in the world to receive International Dark Sky Sanctuary status.
- Stewart Island/Rakiura International Dark Sky Sanctuary – the second island in the world to receive International Dark Sky Sanctuary.
- Wai-iti Recreational Reserve and Tunnicliff Forest, Nelson – in 2020, this became the first International Dark Sky Park in New Zealand.
- Wairarapa Dark Sky Reserve – in 2023 this became one of just 21 International Dark Sky Reserves in the world, Aoraki-Mackenzie is the other one in New Zealand.
Find out more at The International Dark-Sky Association – the recognised authority on light pollution and one of the leading organisations combating light pollution worldwide, with a range of informative posters, brochures and infographics. Explore the locations of International Dark Sky Places around the world in this interactive map.
Listen to this 2023 RadioNZ podcast, Blinded by the light for stories about the stars and light pollution concerns in Aotearoa.
This 2020 New Zealand Geographic article Let there be night explores how artificial lights affect us and the environment around us.