Why do we have Seasons?

This learning block represents one week’s work. Aim to watch at least one video and choose at least one activity or project to complete.

There are several videos to choose from about what makes the seasons.   Feel free to watch one, two, or all three!

If you are a high school student, or you’re interested in going deeper, make sure to check out the Advanced Projects at the end of the block. Have fun!

Now choose an Activity

Demo Lab: Intensity of Light at Different Angles

To understand what makes the seasons, we need to understand how the intensity of the Sun’s energy is different depending on the angle at which it hits the Earth. When the Sun’s energy hits the Earth directly, it is more concentrated. When it hits the Earth indirectly, it is spread out over a larger area and so it is less concentrated. In this demo lab, you will explore this idea yourself!

You will need:
– lamp or flashlight
– dark cardstock
– tape

– whiteboard
– dry erase marker (in 2 colours, if available!)
– a dark room

Step 1: Prepare your supplies. Wrap the cardstock around your light source in a tube shape and tape it in place. Turn on your light, and make sure the rest of the room is as dark as you can make it.

Step 2: Follow the directions in the video above. What do you see? Are you able to replicate the results shown in the video?

Step 3: Answer:
What happens when you shine the light straight on to your whiteboard? Describe the shape and intensity of the light.
What happens when you tilt the whiteboard so that the light is shining on it indirectly? Describe the shape and intensity of the light.
How does this relate to the tilt of the Earth on its axis? What effect does the Earth’s tilt have on how the Sun’s light is dispersed?

Step 4: Document your demo lab, either by photographing it, drawing a diagram, or taking a video. Make sure to include your documentation and all of your observations in your Science Notebook!

Four Seasons Tree Painting Project

In this project, you will make a beautiful piece of art to represent the four seasons! Watch the video above as you work!

You will need:
– four canvases
– tempera or acrylic paint (remember that acrylic paint is NOT washable, so check with an adult before using this!)
– paintbrush
– paper towel or a rag to wipe your hands!

When your work is dry, document it for your Science Notebook! Include notes showing what you learned about why much of the Earth has four seasons!

Sing the Seasons Song

This video will teach you a catchy song about the four seasons! Listen to the words and see if you can figure out what it is teaching you about each one.

Now try to learn some of the words. You can sing along with the chorus, or practice the whole thing! Try to perform the song for your family or make a video of yourself singing along!

Demo Lab: The Earth’s Tilt & Its Path Around the Sun

 A lot of people believe the seasons are caused by the Earth getting closer to or further from the Sun, but that is not true! The seasons are actually caused by the TILT in the Earth’s AXIS. Watch the video above to get an idea how it works, then complete this demo lab to see it for yourself!

You will need:
– apple or orange
– pencil
– marker

– flashlight
– dark room
– a friend to help!

Step 1: Prepare your supplies. Poke your pencil into one end of your apple or orange. You want it to go all the way through your fruit, right down the middle. The pencil represents the Earth’s axis and the fruit is the Earth.

Step 2: Tilt your pencil (axis) a little bit – about 23 degrees. You can measure the angle with a protractor if you have one, or just give it a bit of a tilt based on what you saw in the video above.

Step 3: Make your room as dark as you can. Now turn on your lamp or flashlight. This represents the Sun! You may need someone to help you by pointing the flashlight toward your “Earth.” Hold your tilted Earth model and stand close enough to the flashlight that the light is clearly shining on the middle area of the fruit, and the fading away as it gets toward the top and bottom.

Step 4: Look at your axis. The place where your axis comes out the top of the fruit represents the North Pole, and the spot where it comes out the bottom represents the South Pole. Check that the North Pole is tilted slightly AWAY from the flashlight. Now the North Pole is dark, and the Northern Hemisphere is receiving indirect light, and the Southern Hemisphere is receiving more direct light. This represents Winter in the Northern Hemisphere and Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

Step 5: Walk slowly in a circle around the flashlight. Make sure your friend keeps the light pointing at the Earth model, but DON’T CHANGE the tilt of the axis. Once you have walked 1/4 of the way around, stop. Is the Northern Hemisphere getting more or less direct light now? What about the Southern Hemisphere? What seasons do you think they would be experiencing now?

Step 6: Continue moving around the circle until you are halfway around from where you first began. Now your North Pole should be tilted TOWARD the Sun, and the South Pole is tilted AWAY from the Sun. Which seasons are happening in each hemisphere now?

Step 7: Almost done! Walk another 1/4 of the way around the Sun, keeping the Earth’s tilt the same. What is happening to the light now. Is the Southern Hemisphere getting more or less light? What about the Northern Hemisphere? Which seasons are happening now?

Step 8: Take a few minutes to draw a diagram of your demo lab showing the Earth’s path around the Sun. Include labels for:

– the axis
– North Pole
– South Pole
– Northern Hemisphere
– Southern Hemisphere

Make sure you draw and label your model at EACH of the seasons, showing where the Sun’s light is being cast in relation to the Earth’s axis.

Include your work in your Science Notebook!

Books About the seasons

Click on a book to buy it from Amazon. Or, you can ask for them at your local library. 

Sunshine Makes the Seasons Read Aloud

Advanced Projects

Choose at least one!

Seasons in the Arctic and Antarctica Project

The closer you get to the Earth’s poles, the more extreme the seasonal differences in sunlight become. Because of the Earth’s tilt, the Poles do not receive sunlight during the Winter and do not experience darkness during Summer. Although there are no permanent residents in Antarctica, human have been living in the Arctic Circle for thousands of years. In this project, you will explore the experience of living under the Midnight Sun and in 24-Hour Darkness.

Begin by watching the videos above. The first one will review the science behind 24-Hour Daylight and 24-Hour Darkness. In the second and third videos, you will hear from residents of Northern communities as they share what it’s like to live with these extreme seasonal variations.

Now choose one of the following projects, or try both!

WRITE A POEM OR SONG

Think about what it would be like to live in a remote Northern community. The Winters are long, cold, and dark. You may not see the Sun rise above the horizon for a month or even two months! Many of your waking hours will be spent in darkness or in twilight. In the Summer, the Sun is visible all the time! Maybe you find yourself awake at all hours, watching the Sun drop low down toward the horizon and then start rising up again without ever leaving your sight. Write a poem or song about either Winter or Summer in the Arctic. Think about how you can connect the human experience of these seasons to what is happening in nature – the water, plants, animals, Sun, and land.

Upload it to your portfolio as a written piece, or record it as video.

RESEARCH ANTARCTIC WILDLIFE

Next, you will check out this page from Cool Antarctica. Watch the models of the different seasons and notice the sunlight patterns for Summer, Winter, and the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. You will notice this page also contains useful definitions of terms and a graphic illustrating the differences in daylight hours for several points in Antarctica.

What is the difference between Winter at the South Pole compared to Winter at one of the other communities shown on the graph? Do you think these difference have an impact on which types of wildlife can survive in different locations?

The seasonal variation in Antarctica has a dramatic impact on the wildlife that calls this part of the Earth home. Antarctic animals have come up with all sorts of adaptations to survive and thrive these extreme conditions. In this project, you will research one or more Antarctic animal(s) and create a Google Slides of Powerpoint presentation describing their seasonal adaptations.

Find out:
– How do they survive the Winter?
– How do they survive the Summer?
– What behaviours and physical attributes do they use to help them in each season?
– What, if any, are the impacts of climate change on how they cope with seasonal variation?

Remember to upload your presentation to your portfolio.

There aren’t just four seasons! Projects

Although most of the Western world thinks of Earth as having four seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter), this is NOT universal. For many people who live nearer to the Equator, there are not four seasons, but two: WET and DRY. Additionally, there are many Indigenous cultures around the world who have their own understanding of seasonal changes which emerge from their unique climates and observations of the land. All of these are important when considering Earth’s seasons.

Choose ONE of the following projects that push you beyond the ‘four seasons paradigm,’ or try both!

1. MAKE A VISUAL REPORT ABOUT WET/DRY SEASONS

In this project, you will discover WHY some climates have wet/dry seasons. The answers are a bit complex! Start by reading this page from the Australian Government about wet and dry seasons. You may want to continue researching online to understand these seasonal changes more deeply – especially if you are interested in the differences between monsoon climates and savanna climates!

Now you will create a visual report with your findings. You can choose to focus on one particular wet/dry climate, or take a more general approach. In a visual report, you are trying to make the information you present really clear and easy to see, and you will pay special attention to how it looks. Including photos, graphs, diagrams, and other visual elements is important. You may choose a format that you like for your report: Will it be a booklet? A poster? A simple webpage? A pamphlet? A slideshow?

Include the following:

  • What are wet/dry climates?
  • Where are the found?
  • Why do these places have wet and dry seasons?
  • What are the wet and dry seasons like?
  • Who do these types of seasons support? Which plants and animals depend upon or have adapted to this seasonal rhythm?

Make sure to include citations for your sources. (If you need some guidance on this, check out this page for help.)

Include your presentation in your portfolio.

2. DISCOVER OTHER WAYS OF UNDERSTANDING SEASONS

Different societies have developed unique ways of understanding seasonal change based on their particular climates, geographies, and cosmologies. Whenever we approach scientific knowledge, it is important to do so with respect for Indigenous ways of knowing and understanding the Earth’s systems which can enrich and enhance Western science (and are sometimes centuries ahead!). In this project, you will explore Indigenous Australian understandings of seasonal change.

Start by watching the videos below:

Now you will research specific Indigenous Australian people groups’ understandings of seasons. Open up the Indigenous Weather Knowledge tool. You will see a map of Australia. Select a people group by clicking on its name. This will take you to a page with detailed descriptions of this group’s seasonal calendar.

Answer the following:
– What is the people group’s name?
– How many seasons do they recognize?
– What is each season called? What are the indicators of that season?

Repeat this process with two more people groups. Now compare your answers. Ask yourself:
– How are the seasons for these groups similar? How are they different?
– Do you see common features to the seasons across people groups?
– What stands out to you?
– How do these seasonal divisions compare to the seasons you recognize where you live?

You final task is to think about how seasons are experienced in your home community. If you didn’t have a calendar to tell you the month, what would you be looking for to indicate seasonal changes? Would you still think of your year as having four seasons? Or would it be more? Or fewer? Using the Indigenous Weather Knowledge pages as a template, write your OWN seasonal descriptions based on the variation that happens in your region. Think about all the indicators – plants and animals, what people tend to do that time of year, weather patterns, daylight and darkness, etc. Make it as detailed as you can.

When you are done, include it in your Science Notebook.

NOw Let’s Have some fun!