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The Four Seasons

AAAS Science NetLinks

In this activity, students investigate what causes the seasons by doing a series of kinesthetic modeling activities and readings.

Activity takes one to two 45-minute class periods. Additional materials are needed.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 2 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Axial tilt of Earth governs incoming sunlight and seasonality
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1c

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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.

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

  • Assess student preconceptions by having them write them down beforehand, and after the activity, they should return to their preconceptions and modify them.
  • Instead of having students read the text material in the introductory activity “Reason for Seasons” (which gives much of the information away), direct the student action orally and have students come to their own conclusions.
  • Some good follow-up lessons are suggested.

About the Science

  • The graphic (“Cosmic Map”) shown is significantly out of scale, potentially fostering one common misconception (Earth is larger than the sun). Educators should stress that the graphic is out of scale on the diagram.
  • Activity addresses common misconceptions about what results in seasons on Earth.
  • Comment from scientist: Activity could also connect the tilt to length of day during the seasons because this also impacts how much of the sun's energy is received during different seasons; i.e. the strength of the incoming energy during the day is weaker in winter because it strikes more obliquely, but the days are also shorter. This could lead to discussion to the effect of Earth's tilt, resulting in greater extremes in seasons and amount of daylight closer to the poles than at the equator. For example, the equator has ~12 hours of daylight year round while elsewhere that occurs only at the equinoxes. Also, the north pole and south pole have 6 months of darkness followed by 6 months of daylight.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity is well laid out with good motivation piece and educator background reference to the A Private Universe video.
  • Much of what goes on is teacher-centered, a series of lecture-demo pieces stitched together by some 3D modeling.
  • 3D modeling part of activity is good for kinesthetic learners.
  • Rubric for scoring in assessment section is good.
  • Recommended extensions are good.
  • Activity includes educator background information about how to address common misconceptions about the seasons with students.
  • Contains best practice approach to addressing student misconceptions.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Very well organized and structured for ease of use by educators.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS1.A1:Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models.

MS-ESS1.B2:This model of the solar system can explain eclipses of the sun and the moon. Earth’s spin axis is fixed in direction over the short-term but tilted relative to its orbit around the sun. The seasons are a result of that tilt and are caused by the differential intensity of sunlight on different areas of Earth across the year.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Patterns, Cause and effect

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

Science and Engineering Practices: 2

Developing and Using Models, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

MS-P2.5:Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

MS-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

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