Skip to main content

Iowa Sunrises

At sunrise, the sun is coming above the horizon and creates a beautiful mix of many different colors. There are many different reasons that these colors are so vibrant in Iowa specifically. A contributing factor to the colors that are visible to the human eye is the level of pollution in the air. If the pollution is high, the light scatters and colors become less vibrant. In somewhere like Iowa where agriculture is so high, pollution is not as high, so the colors come through a lot more vibrantly.

Sioux Center, Iowa

Driving Question

  • Why are there so many colors in the sunrise?

Probing Questions

  • What factors go into what colors you are able to see in a sunrise? 
  • How do air particles play into sunrises? 

Classroom Suggestions

Students could:

  • Watch the sunrise themselves and make observations.
  • Go outside at different times of the day, look at what colors are visible through a magnifying glass and see if it changes with the different positions of the sun. 
  • Look at multiple videos of different sunrises with humidity and air quality of those specific days. See how they compare and how they are different. 

Relevant Related Resources

Time Lapse Video of the Sunrise at Iowa | YouTube: This is a time lapse so that students would be able to watch and see all of the different colors as the sun rises. 
6th Grade Refraction of Light | This is a lesson plan that has multiple activities listed for students to practice multiple visuals of light refraction. 

Iowa Core Alignment


Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials

Credit Info

Phenomena submitted by Natalie Cohoon and Emma DeBoer.

REAPCorporation for Public BroadcastingAlliant EnergyMusco Lighting Pella