Jump to this Simulation/Interactive »
The Reason for the Seasons: How the Earth and Sun Interact to Create Seasons

Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies

This is an excellent interactive simulation of the earth moving around the sun.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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

  • This model is a beneficial resource, but will not function as a lesson on its own. Teachers will need to find background and supplemental materials and activities.
  • It could be used after a lesson about the seasons as an additional example for students to use, perhaps with a teacher-created sheet of questions to answer based on their investigations with the simulation.
  • Educators will want to have other activities and resources planned on this topic to fill out a class period. Educators may wish to explore the other models provided by CIMSS.
  • Teachers should prepare inquiry questions ahead of time (ex. What do you notice when we do X with the simulation? What would you like to do with the simulations, and why?)

About the Content

  • Students can alter and observe a model of Earth's orbit around the Sun using reliable data from NASA.
  • Some proportions in the simulation are inaccurate (the sizes of Earth and the sun and the dimensions of Earth's orbit), but it is intentional and necessary for the purposes of using this model to explain the seasons. There is a disclaimer at the beginning that explains this to the user.
  • The resource could be used without making a connection to climate change but it also a helpful foundational principle for understanding climate. Educators may want to emphasize that the characteristics of Earth's orbit around the Sun cannot explain the current warming trends.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This resource is a simulation of Earth orbiting the sun that can be used to teach about the seasons.
  • Students will need some computer skills if they are going to manipulate the model themselves. They would also benefit from background knowledge (Earth orbits the Sun, rotates on an axis, etc.)
  • There is a key to help users understand the different elements of the model, but no background information about the vocabulary (for example, "Solar Insolation" is not defined so teachers may want to supplement).
  • The model's descriptions will be a little complex for younger students who haven't had much introduction to astronomy, but the imagery can serve as a great resource for a teacher willing to explain what is occurring.
  • The model would function best as a full-class activity managed by the teacher or an individual exploration where all students could manipulate the model and make observations.
  • There is no teacher's guide provided, so educators would need to plan connected lessons with this resource, especially if they wanted to connect Earth's seasons to climate change.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Simulation controls are clearly explained and easy to use. Teacher guidance is needed for understanding and interpreting the simulation, but not for using the controls.
  • Educators may need some preparation time to consider how to explain the model and graphs to their students, depending on the age of the students and their background in this topic.
Entered the Collection: March 2023 Last Reviewed: August 2022

Jump to this Simulation/Interactive »