Why the Sky is Blue [Lab Springboard]

The Lessons of Phyz
Grade Levels
7th - 12th, Higher Education, Adult Education
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • Google Drive™ folder
4 Student Pages & 4 Key Pages
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The Lessons of Phyz
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This is part of the classroom curriculum I developed for use with my high school physics students.


Students will be working with something while completing this assignment. In this case, the Laser Viewing Tank.


The instructor guides students through this activity via classroom discussion. The activity is a springboard for that discussion. This is not intended as a homework or independent activity. This lesson also includes a demonstration component using resonant tuning forks (and maybe a Bluetooth speaker paired with a phone).


Congratulations! You made it to blue skies. That requires a level of syllabus ambition and schedule discipline that not everyone is capable of.

"Why is the sky blue?" An age-old physics question that is too often answered briefly and incorrectly. An appropriate high school level answer requires a bit of time and is helped by a few hands-on activities.

The spectrum of sunlight, resonance of atmospheric molecules, and sensitivity of the human eye all have roles to play in making the sky blue. And sunrise and sunset skies orange.

Students really enjoy this lesson and find it compelling. A few nuances and extensions are explored in this lesson. And this is an updated version of the lesson I submitted in my application for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: California Science 2011.

When implemented as originally designed—a guided classroom discussion integrated with a demonstration and lab activity, this lesson requires significant preparation and practice. The reward is well worth the investment, and you will look forward to the lesson every year.


Student document (print-friendly Google Docs file on Google Drive)

Instructional presentation (link embedded in answer key)

Answer key

Total Pages
4 Student Pages & 4 Key Pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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