Amazing Auroras


Starting with the Voyageurs National Park Quarter, students will explain how the Northern Lights are formed.

Coin Type(s)

  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • America the Beautiful Quarters


Students will explain how the Northern Lights are formed. Students will create a comic using creative story-telling to illustrate the formation of the Northern Lights.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Science

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Art


  • 7th
  • 8th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Two
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Individual work

Terms and Concepts

  • Quarter
  • Reverse (back)
  • Obverse (front)
  • Northern Lights



Worksheets and Files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

  1. Display and examine the "Voyageurs National Park Quarter" page. Locate the park on a class map. Note its position in relation to your school's location. Tell the students that the front of a coin is called the "obverse" and the back is called the "reverse." Explain to the students that the United States Mint began to issue the quarters in the America the Beautiful Quarters Program in 2010. By the time the program ends in 2021, there will be a total of 56 designs. Each design will focus on a different national site—one from each state, territory, and the District of Columbia.
  2. Read the coin information on the "Voyageurs National Park Quarter" page. Tell the class that visitors to this national park have a unique opportunity to view the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights.
  3. Introduce to the students the concept of the Northern Lights. Explain that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon where streaks or cloud-like patches of brilliant color appear in the night sky. The more north you are, the more likely it is that you will see the Northern Lights. The lights are often white or pale green, but will sometimes appear in colors such as yellow, red, blue, or even purple. Because it's surrounded by lakes and wilderness, Voyageurs National Park is a great place to view these lights because there is very little artificial light coming from buildings or other man-made sources. Ask the class if anyone has seen the Northern Lights and invite them to share their experience.
  4. Have the students research the process for the formation of the Northern Lights. Have the students record the steps in the formation on the "What Causes the Northern Lights?" worksheet.
  5. Share some examples of comic strips with the students. Have the students create a comic strip about what causes the Northern Lights. Emphasize the importance of creative storytelling in the comic strip while conveying the facts.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Allow students to work in pairs.
  • Allow students to use a scribe to complete their worksheets.
  • Allow students to use clip art or photos instead of illustrating their comic.


  • Have students learn about which molecules emit which colors and have them display that information in their comic.


  • Use the "Amazing Auroras Rubric" to evaluate whether the students have met the lesson objective.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RST Science & Technical Subjects
Grade(s): Grade 6-8
Cluster: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas


  • 6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • 6-8.8 Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.
  • 6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

National Standards

Discipline: Science
Domain: 5-8 Content Standards
Cluster: Earth and Space Science
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Structure of the Earth system
  • Earth's history
  • Earth in the solar system

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: 5-8 Visual Arts
Cluster: Standard 6: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Grade(s): Grades 5–8

  • Students compare multiple purposes for creating works of art
  • Students analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry
  • Students describe and compare a variety of individual responses to their own artworks and to artworks from various eras and cultures