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In this worksheet-based activity, students review global visualizations of incoming sunlight and surface temperature and discuss seasonal change. Students use the visualizations to support inquiry on the differences in seasonal change in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and how land and water absorb and release heat differently. The activity culminates in an argument about why one hemisphere experiences warmer summers although it receives less total solar energy.

Activity takes one class period.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 7 Cross Cutting Concepts, 9 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 2 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1c
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2a
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2b

Energy Literacy

Other materials addressing:
1.2 Thermal energy.
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2.3 Earth's climate driven by the Sun.
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2.4 Water stores and transfers energy.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
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G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • An additional assessment strategy for students should be designed to ensure student understanding of the lesson and to prevent misconceptions from being developed.
  • Educator should set the stage for the activity with a demonstration of the reason for the seasons.
  • If a color copier/printer or computer projector are not available, there is an opportunity for students to color their own diagrams.

About the Science

  • Worksheet-based activity in which students interpret global visualizations of incoming solar radiation, average surface temperatures, land/sea distribution diagrams in order to understand the reason for the seasons and the effect of different heat capacities of land and water.
  • Good background information, but additional reference materials are not provided to support educator.
  • The oblique diagram on Earth’s location relative to the sun appears to show a highly elliptical orbit that may cause misconceptions. It should be pointed out that the diagram on the left is oblique and the diagram on the right is looking straight down on the orbital plane.
  • This activity may not effectively address (and could reinforce) misconceptions about the reason for the seasons.
  • Comment from scientist: Freezing point of water is 0 deg C and not 3 deg C. Incoming solar radiation is approx 342 W/m2 and not 300.
  • The term albedo should be introduced when teaching about reflectiveness of different surfaces, and the term heat capacity could be made explicit in the student materials to introduce students to proper scientific terminology.

About the Pedagogy

  • Well-designed worksheet, good visualizations and guidance for educator. Rubrics/answer key for assessing students are available.
  • Resource urges group work and discussion among groups, which enhance learning for diverse groups.
  • Material is challenging to teach and engage students. It will need skilled educator guidance.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:


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