DOES SUN ALWAYS RISE AND SET AT THE SAME PLACE? AN INQUIRY-BASED LEARNING EXPERIENCE WITH PRE-SERVICE PRIMARY TEACHERS
Most of the primary school curricula across the world include the orientation of people on the Earth and students must to be able to locate the cardinal points to do so. Nevertheless there is a general misconception about how to locate the cardinal points using the sunrise or the sunset azimuths. Most of the people think that Sun always rises at the East and sets at the West and hence, you can easily locate the East, just having a look at the place where the Sun rises any day of the year; moreover, this misconception is supported by most of the textbooks. However, only at the equinox days, the Sun rises at the East and sets at the West! On the other hand, it is well known that science teaching and learning in all levels of education should be based on the scientific practices, conducted as a research (or inquiry, on first levels of education); that it is to say, teaching/learning science must encourage the acquirement of knowledge through the scientific work, with children taking part in each stage of a “research” for they to build their knowledge. Here we present a didactical proposal through inquiry for pre-service primary teachers to be aware that the place where the Sun rises and sets vary during the year. The question that guides the research is “Does Sun always rise and set at the same place? How could we know that?” To solve that question undergraduates have to take photos of the Sun when is rising/setting once a week, during two months, always from the same point (they should make a mark on the ground to know exactly where is the place where they took the first photo). They also need to have some local reference (i.e., trees, buildings…) at the landscape where they are taking pictures, so they can use these references to check if the position where Sun rises or sets change or not. Throughout this inquiry, they would “discover” that the place where the Sun sets/rises is not always the same. This science education proposal for pre-service primary teachers, which could be also applied in primary school, is developed using empirical data of sunrise and sunset. In this teaching/learning methodological approach based on constructivism, students participate in the (re)construction of their own knowledge according to scientific practices. This implies to take scientific work to the classroom, which is of paramount importance to understand the natural phenomena occurring around them.