# Modeling the Seasons Lab Activity

## Modeling the Seasons

Earth’s seasons — the annual climate changes that different locations experience — result from a combination of Earth’s orbit around the Sun and the tilt of Earth’s axis. Understanding why the Earth has seasons is one of the most difficult concepts to understand. However, creating models that could demonstrate how different seasons occur can help understand this concept and abandon preconceived ideas. In this laboratory activity, you will make an Earth model as well as sun in order to demonstrate how different seasons occur.

## Modeling the Seasons Learning Objectives:

At the end of this laboratory activity, students are expected to:

• Make a model to demonstrate how season changes.
• Explain different reasons for seasons.

## Modeling the Seasons Laboratory Proper:

### NGSS Standards Covered

• MS-ESS1-1 Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.

### Modeling the Season Learning Objectives

• Explain how the revolution of the Earth around the Sun causes the change in seasons in both the northern and southern hemisphere.
• Explain how the tilt of the Earth results in season variations.

### I Can Statement

I can explain how the tilt of the Earth and its revolution around the Sun causes the change in seasons in both the northern and southern hemisphere.

### Vocabulary:

• Season
• Summer
• Spring
• Winter
• Autumn
• Hemisphere
• Direct and Indirect Rays

## Modeling the Seasons Lab Materials:

For the whole group:

• a 150-200 watt light bulb (not frosted) or a flashlight
• a lamp or socket for the bulb
• an extension cord
• a room that can be made dark

For each pair of students:

• a Styrofoam ball
• a large straw
• a rubber band
• a flexible plastic cup (5.5 oz)
• scissors
• tape
• a thumbtack or sticky dot
• a protractor
• a ruler with centimeters

## Modeling the Seasons Lab Activity Procedure:

Making a Model of the Earth

1. Push the straw through the center of the Styrofoam ball. This represents the axis about which the Earth rotates. One end is north and the other end is south.
2. Place a rubber band around the center of the ball (the Earth’s equator).
3. Looking at a globe or a map, find your approximate latitude, and place the tack or dot there. (Ex. San Francisco is at 37.750 north, so placing the tack not quite halfway between the equator and the North Pole is an acceptable approximation.)
4. Use scissors to make a hole in the bottom of the plastic cup, near the side, as shown below. It should be just large enough to accommodate the diameter of the straw.
5. Take an 8-cm piece of tape and stick a 2-cm piece to the center of the 8-cm piece (sticky sides together). Place the straw into the hole in the cup, and use the modified tape to hold the straw against the side of the cup, yet still allowing the straw to rotate in the hole.
6. Your model should look something like the picture below. Use a protractor to check the angle of the earth’s tilt. It should be 23.5 degrees.

Setting up the Room

1. Use one bright lamp for the whole group or flashlights for small groups. Designate some visual reference as Polaris, the North Star. All straws should point to the Polaris throughout the activity.
2. Set up the light in the center of the group or flashlights in the center of each small group. Before darkening the room, make sure all earth models are oriented correctly toward Polaris.
3. Darken the room.

Modeling Day and Night and Seasons

1. Model a “day” on Earth. Each student should turn the straw so that the Earth spins counterclockwise (when viewed from the north) for one rotation. Observe how the dot on your globe is exposed to light. Write your observations.
2. Model the seasons. Divide the class into four groups. Have each group move to one of the four seasonal positions around the lamp (or one student at each position around a flashlight if using small groups): December 21, March 21, June 21, and September 21. It should look like this if seen from above:
3. Have each group model a day at each position. At each position, they should notice:
• For what fraction of the day is the dot in the light? More than half? Less than half? About half?
• For what fraction of the day is the North Pole in the light?
• How is the light from the sun striking the dot? Is it direct or at an angle?

## Data and Results

Explain why each statement is considered as misconception about seasons.

1. Earth’s orbit brings it closer to the Sun in summer and farther away in winter.
2. Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees on its axis and the hemisphere that is tilted toward the Sun experiences summer because it is closer to the sun.

## Discuss the following with your students:

1. For what fraction of the day is the dot in the light? More than half? Less than half? About half?
2. For what fraction of the day is the North Pole in the light?
3. How is the light from the sun striking the dot? Is it direct or at an angle?

## Seasons Worksheets - Word Docs & PowerPoints

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