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  • 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).

    Activity idea

    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.


    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.

    Useful links

    The Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) has a Dark Skies Group that advocates for minimising light pollution. There is also information on light pollution and monitoring our night skies, which contain 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 it's dark sky designation in 2012. Find out more here.
    • Aotea/Great Barrier International Dark Sky Sanctuary – in 2017, this became the first island in the world to receive International Dark Sky Sanctuary status. Find out more here.
    • Stewart Island/Rakiura International Dark Sky Sanctuary – the second island in the world to receive International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Find out more here.
    • Wai-iti Recreational Reserve and Tunnicliff Forest, Nelson – in 2020 this become the first International Dark Sky Park in New Zealand. Find out more here.

    Find out more 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.

    This 2020 New Zealand Geographic article, Let there be night explores how artificial lights affect us and the environment around us.

      Published 18 March 2019, Updated 13 July 2020 Referencing Hub articles
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