Why do the seasons change?
When it comes to teaching my students the reason for the seasons, I find a basic seasons diagram is not enough. Students may be able to memorize the different positions of the Earth during its revolution and how the Earth tilts on its axis, but actually understanding why the seasons change requires a little more active learning.
Actively Creating a Seasons Model
Any time I teach, I strive to incorporate participatory learning. This “Why Do We Have Seasons?” Lesson Plan is no different. The lesson plan includes an illustrated seasons diagram and facts about seasons. Students examine the revolution of Earth, how it is positioned in summer vs winter, and how much sunlight certain hemispheres receive. The lesson plan also involves multiple opportunities for students to actively create a seasons model.
Seasons Model Class Demo
In this demo, students will get on their feet to reenact the revolution of the Earth. All you need is a lamp, a volunteer, and a dark classroom. Place the lamp in the middle of the room, and allow plenty of space for the volunteer to move. The lamp will act as the sun, and your volunteer will assume the role of the Earth. With all other lights in the classroom off, the volunteer will slowly revolve around the sun. As he/she does this, take discuss how the “sunlight” is hitting.
Now, add a tilt to the activity. Ask the volunteer to lean forward modeling how the Earth tilts on its axis. The student’s waste will act as the equator. As the student “Earth” revolves around the lamp “sun,” he/she must maintain the leaning. Discuss with the class how the “sunlight” is hitting the “Earth” at certain points. The revolution of the volunteer “Earth” will work as a live seasons model. As he/she revolves, students can observe winter in the southern hemisphere and summer in the northern hemisphere. They can see a live example of how the sun’s rays hit the “Earth” during the equinox. The Seasons Model class demo is a great way to actively create a seasons diagram.
Seasons Diagram Bonus Game
Once students have observed the revolution of the Earth in the Seasons Model class demo, They can put their knowledge to the test with the Bonus Seasons Diagram Game. Here, the whole class will get a chance to participate as they are challenged to reenact the Earth’s seasons diagram at random.
The tabs at the bottom of the paper are to be cut out and placed in some sort of container to draw from. You may opt to break your class into teams or take individual volunteers. When students are ready, draw one of the slips from the container and read it to the teams or students. For example, “Show me what summer in the southern hemisphere looks like.” The student will assume the role of the Earth in its revolution and run to get into the correct position. They must make sure they are tilted correctly.
You can also reverse the challenge. Select one student to stand in a specific way in the live seasons model, and ask the class to identify the seasons. For example, “What season is the northern hemisphere experiencing? How can you tell summer vs winter?”
The scoring guidelines are totally up to you. Overall, this is a high-energy way to engage your students in incorporating the revolution of the Earth into a live seasons diagram.
The Follow-up Assessment
Now that your students have taken an active role in the learning process and recreated the seasons diagram multiple times, it is time to assess their understanding. Instead of creating a test, students can demonstrate their comprehension with this follow-up worksheet in comic form.
In this follow-up, students will reflect back on the seasons model activity and examine the images on the paper. They will need to identify what season each letter represents. At this point in the lesson, students should have a pretty solid grasp on the concept, but if they are still struggling, they can easily stand up and reenact the same body position illustrated in the picture.
Visual and Active Learning
In my experience as a middle school science teacher, visual learning paired with active learning is impactful and lasting. So many of my students are reluctant to read. It does not matter if it is a textbook, instructions, or a story problem. Reading tends to be the last thing they want to do. Once I began incorporating comic-style visuals into my content, all of that changed. Comics have the power of reaching a wide range of range of learning abilities- from the highly proficient to the struggling. Comics also help make reading accessible to students with disabilities and ESL students.
If you are looking for an engaging and memorable way to teach your students about seasons, and you have a diverse range of readers in your classes. I highly recommend trying comics.
The Complete Seasons Diagram Lesson Plan is available here
You can also access the Teachers Pay Teachers version which includes an Easel Activity