T he Earth orbits around the sun. It takes the Earth days one year to

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1 Follow the Earth as it orbits the sun to learn what causes the changing seasons. Materials Reproducible pages Scissors Tape Brad (paper fastener) Crayons, colored pencils, or markers (optional) Weather Center T he Earth orbits around the sun. It takes the Earth days one year to complete one orbit, or revolution. The path Earth follows is close to an ellipse, not a circle. So in January, the Earth is nearly 3 million miles (5 million km) closer to the sun than in July. Many people mistakenly believe that this is why seasons change. But while this might explain why it is summer in the southern half of the Earth in January, it doesn t explain why it is winter in the northern half. The reason for seasons is because Earth s axis is tilted and its surface is curved. Earth s axis is an imaginary line that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole. The axis is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees from straight up and down. As the tilted Earth revolves around the sun, the seasons change. When the northern half of the Earth is tilted toward the sun, the Northern Hemisphere experiences summer as the sun s rays strike this part of Earth more directly than in winter. The Southern Hemisphere, which is tilted away from the sun, experiences winter. When the Earth moves to the other side of the sun, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun. The sun s rays are spread out over a greater area of land on the Earth s curved surface, reducing the amount of solar energy the land and water can absorb. As a result, the air is colder in winter than in summer. At the same time, the Southern Hemisphere, which is tilted toward the sun, experiences summer. In winter, days are shorter and nights are longer; in summer, the reverse is true. At the start of autumn and spring, the Earth is neither tilted toward or away from the sun. There are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. When it is spring in the Northern Hemisphere, it is autumn in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa. Making the Manipulative 1 Photocopy pages Color, if desired. 2 Cut out all the pieces along the thick, solid outer lines. 3 Position the black dot on the Earth piece under the black dot on the sun. Push the brad through the sun and the other piece and secure at the back. 16

2 T h e S e a s o n s 4 On the pieces that show the Earth at different times of the year, fold down the flaps along the dashed lines, as shown. 5 Tape the two pieces together on both ends so that they form a circle with the text on the inside. 6 Position the circular piece on the sun piece so that the flap with the black dot is on top of the matching shape with the black dot. Tape the flap in place. Tape the other flaps in place. 7 Tape the winter piece on the outside of the circle across from December 21, as shown. To its right, tape spring (across from March 20 ), then summer (across from June 21 ), then finally autumn (across from September 21 ). Teaching With the Manipulative Invite students to color, assemble, and read their manipulatives. To use, have students move the Earth around the sun, starting at June 21, and read about the Earth s position and its corresponding season. Then check for understanding by asking them these questions: 1 How long does it take Earth to make one complete trip around the sun? (One year) 2 What causes the seasons to change? (The tilt of the Earth s axis) 3 On December 21, when the northern half of the Earth is tilted away from the sun, what season is it there? (Winter) 4 Compare summer and winter weather. (Summer days are long and hot, while nights are short and warm. In the winter, days are shorter and colder, and nights are longer and colder. The sun rises high in the sky in summer, but sits low in the sky in the winter.) 5 At the start of which seasons is the Earth not tilted toward or away from the sun? (Autumn and spring) More to Do Tilted Use a tilted globe and a flashlight to show how the sun s rays fall on the Earth s surface as the seasons change. Explain the relationship between the tilt of the Earth and where the most direct rays of sunlight strike over the course of a year. Students can easily see that when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, the light from the flashlight strikes that area more directly that when it is tilted away from the sun. Resources The Reason for Seasons by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 1996) Using simple words and colorful illustrations, this classic book explain what makes the seasons change in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. org/programs/seasons Created by the Allentown School District Planetarium, this Web site features detailed pictures that explain why seasons change. 17

3 The Seasons 18 September 21 December 21 The Earth is not tilted toward the sun or away from it. Both north and south get the same amount of sunlight. Autumn begins in the north, while spring begins in the south. The northern half of the Earth is tilted away from the sun. It gets less sunlight than the southern half. Winter begins in the north, and summer begins in the south. The northern half of the Earth is tilted toward the sun. The southern half is tilted away. So the northern half gets more sunlight than the southern half. Summer begins in the north, while winter begins in the south. The Earth is not tilted toward the sun or away from it. What season begins in the northern half of the Earth? What about in the south? June 21 March 20

4 Sun The Earth orbits around the sun. It takes the Earth one year to travel all the way around. As it travels around the sun, the Earth also rotates on its own axis. The Earth s axis is tilted. Sometimes the Earth is tilted toward the sun. Sometimes it s tilted away. This causes the seasons to change. Move the Earth around the sun to learn more. 19

5 Spring In spring, days start getting longer. It s warmer than in winter, but not as hot as in summer. It often rains. Summer The sun sits high in the sky during summer. Days are long and hot, while nights are short and warm. Autumn The nights start getting longer in autumn. The temperature gets cooler. Many plants lose their leaves. Earth Winter Earth moves this way around the sun. It s winter. The sun sits low in the sky. The days are short, and nights are long. In cold places, snow falls. 20

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