Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use BrainPOP resources to calculate elapsed time in meaningful contexts and use models to understand that the rotation of the Earth causes the passage of hours and the day/night cycle. Students will also use interactive online game play models to explore the basic motions and positioning of the earth-moon-sun system and zodiac constellations, and practice telling time based on the position of the earth, moon, and sun.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Calculate elapsed time in meaningful contexts
  2. Use models to understand that the rotation of the earth causes the passage of hours and the day/night cycle
  3. Use models to understand the basic motions and positioning of the earth-moon-sun system


  • Internet access for BrainPOP and Chronopticon


constellations; moon; phases; elapsed time; elapse; tardy; interval; strategy; advance; confirm


Chronopticon is a time travel game in which players guide Tim and Moby from the 19th century back to the present day. Along the way, players will gain an increasingly complex picture of the earth-moon-sun system and the celestial sphere, as well as how their motions relate to the passage of time. Key learning objectives include using models to understand: (1) that the earth’s rotation causes passage of hours and creates the day/night cycle; (2) basic motions and positioning of the earth-sun-moon system in relation to lunar cycles; (3) basic configurations, motions, and positioning of the zodiac constellations; and (4) how one’s reference point in the northern or southern hemisphere affects the motion, appearance, and positioning of celestial bodies.

Familiarize yourself with the Chronopticon interactive game as well as the BrainPOP Constellations topic and Elapsed Time topic. A great place to start is our Chronopticon Game Guide (PDF). Make sure students have sufficient practice in calculating elapsed time, and have a basic understanding of constellations.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Day 1: As a warm-up activity, have students respond to the writing prompt "What is elapsed time?" or have students compose a real-life elapsed time problem and explain in writing how to solve it. If students need assistance in recalling information about elapsed time, project the Q&A and facilitate a discussion around it.
  2. Watch the Elapsed Time movie with the closed captioning on. Pause as needed to check for student understanding and address misconceptions.
  3. Ask students to imagine that they are in the middle of a desert or open space with no electronics or clocks. How might they figure out what time it is? How could they calculate the passage of time? Facilitate a discussion with the class. How can you determine what time it is by looking at the sun? What is the relationship between the position of the earth/sun and the time of day?
  4. Review student misconceptions, and pose a question to the class: If we were to go outside right now, where in the sky do you think the sun would appear? Would you have a shadow? Why or why not?
  5. Invite a few students to come up to the board and draw the way they think the sun would look. Take a class vote to see which prediction the majority of students agree with.
  6. Bring the class outside, instructing students to bring paper to take notes and/or sketch the position of the sun.
  7. Debrief back in the classroom afterward. How accurate were our predictions? What did you learn?
  8. Tell students they will use their background knowledge and elapsed time skills to play an interactive game called Chronopticon. Explain the basic procedures for game play and allow students time to explore levels 1 and 2 either independently or in partners.
  9. Afterward, bring the whole class back together for a discussion about what they learned and the strategies they used. Have students share their findings. You may wish to project the Quiz and talk about the answers as a skill review.
  10. Day 2: Ask students, "What is a constellation? How can you determine when a constellation will appear in the sky?" Take the Constellations quiz to determine what misconceptions students have and talk about them.
  11. Watch the BrainPOP Constellations movie, pausing to discuss as needed. Make sure the closed captioning is turned on to help students understand and make connections.
  12. Have students reinforce their understandings by playing levels 3, 4, and 5 of the Chronopticon game.
  13. Talk with students about the game play. How were the upper levels different from the lower levels? What understandings about elapsed time and constellations were important in game play?
  14. Have students reflect in writing about what they learned. Would they recommend the Chronopticon game to other kids? Why or why not?

Extension Activities:

Have students list the constellations they learned about through the Chronopticon game and/or through your instruction. Each student can select one constellation to research and present to the class in the form of a Prezi, PowerPoint, or other presentation method.

Explore the Moon topic on BrainPOP. Have students make their own lunar phase calendar using the Experiment.

You might also want to check out the other Science Games and Math Games featured in GameUp.

Downloadable Resources:

Chronopticon Game Guide (PDF)