What's the Angle?

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This activity helps learners understand how the angle of the Sun affects temperatures around the globe. After experimenting with a heat lamp and thermometers at differing angles, learners apply what they learned to explain temperature variations on Earth. The printable six-page handout includes a series of inquiry-based questions to get learners thinking about what they already know about temperature patterns, detailed experiment directions, and a worksheet that helps learners use the experiment results to gain a deeper understanding of seasonal temperature changes and why Antarctica is always cold.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 3 thermometers
  • heat lamp
  • flat surface
  • scrap paper
  • graph paper
  • stopwatch
  • books or other items to prop up thermometers


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
      • Seasons
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Human Impact
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
    • Measurement
      • Rate
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, American Museum of Natural History and Rice University, 2002