In our first lesson of the year, we tried to answer the tricky question of why there are seasons. We started by modeling the solar system using this nifty NASA activity. I showed them the Sun and asked them to guess how big the Earth would be, at that scale. Then I gave them all little Earths and asked them to stand where they thought Earth would orbit.

We used 65′ of clothesline to get their Earths to their proper position, and then started our orbit. Every 30┬░ (measured out on a compass) we’d say what month it was now. (This only lasted a few months, we opted not to do an entire orbit.) We talked about how day and night were caused by our spinning towards and away from the Sun.

Back at the picnic table we used a globe to talk about the Earth’s tilt, and how Chicago sometimes points more towards the Sun (in summer) and sometimes up at an angle away from the Sun (in winter). Then I gave them all 20′ lengths and we got into a big circle. I asked them to all lean towards the pavilion, and imagine that Chicago was on the tip of their nose. Some of them (leaning towards the Sun) were in summer, some (leaning away) were in winter, and others were transitioning through spring or fall. We orbited around a bit more, stopping to requiz.

Finally, they combined their 20′ lengths into a giant circle (220′ circumference!) so we could do a great big Ring Around the Rosie. Many thanks to Darla, Brigit, and Kathy for keeping us in a safe orbit, and to Olga for capturing the┬áscene!

Nature Study: Why Seasons?