Cultivate Wonder

Exploring Science with Children

Fun in the Sun (or the Magic of UV!)

The first Summer Science program was a great success! We learned about the sun, UV rays, and talked about ways to stay safe in the sun.


I read The Sun, Our Nearest Star by Franklyn M. Branley (HarperCollins, 2002  ) from the Let’s Read and Find Out Science Series to introduce some ideas about the sun (it’s a star!), size and space, and the life-giving qualities as well as the reasons to be careful. Next we made a circle and walked (orbited) to “Sally Go Round the Sunshine.”

sun roca


Next I read part of The Sun by Nuria Roca, Carol Isern and Rocio Bonilla (Barron’s, 2014) The friendly narrative tone of Alice and Oliver’s experiences with the sun reinforced the earlier ideas about size, space, light, heat and UV rays. Most kids can relate to the frustration of an ice cream melting on a hot day! To give them an idea of scale, I brought in volleyball to represent the sun and a pin to show the relative size of the earth (as described in the book). Children passed the volleyball around, while I showed them the pin.

But the idea of invisible light from the sun we cannot see? A much harder idea to grasp. To try to “show” them the UV light, I brought in UV beads. These are clear, but turn colors when exposed to UV. I had asked them how they protect themselves from the sun. Answers included hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, and staying in the shade. I showed a short sun safety video featuring the Minions, which repeated these ideas.

With pipe cleaners, pony beads, and UV beads, we created UV friends (or cats, or dogs, or bracelets . . . etc.). This turned out to be a great activity for fine motor skills as well as a science experiment.

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After construction, the kids took their creations outside to watch the UV beads turn colors in the sun:

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“Is it magic?” one three year old asked her mom. Next, the young scientists were given an assortment of materials they could use to test if they blocked UV rays: sunscreen, light and dark cloth, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and sunglasses. The beads change back to clear about a minute after being taken inside (or covered up — away from UV light.)


This was a fun way to make the invisible rays of the sun visible to the kids. Many tried all the options and left thinking of other things they might try at home to see if they block UV light. Hopefully they will also remember to wear their hats and sunscreen this summer while having fun in the sun!

Note: This science storytime was inspired by and based on the activity “UV Kid” from the Science-Technology Activities and Resources (STAR_Net) program, developed by the Lunar and Planetary Institute, which I learned about through the workshop “Creating Out-of-this-World Children’s Science Programming With Free NASA Resources” at NASA workshop at ALA Midwinter, January 10, 2016.








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