Reasons for the Seasons
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection
This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are
- Scientific Accuracy
- Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
- Pedagogic Effectiveness
- Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
- Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page
For more information about the peer review process itself, please see https://serc.carleton.edu/teachearth/activity_review.html.
This page first made public: May 9, 2012
This two-part inquiry activity helps students investigate the reasons for the seasons. The aim for the first part of this activity is to engage students' prior knowledge by having them predict seasonal temperature trends among various cities (cities should be located different latitudes). Students then collect seasonal temperature data to compare their prediction to the actual data. Then, students make interpretations about the seasonal patterns of each city as well as among them. For instance, students could observe that cities closer to the equator have less variation in seasonal temperature when compared to cities further from the equator.
Based on the observations from part one, students then generate inferences/possible explanations to explain why these seasonal temperature trends. The most common student explanations are: 1) distance from the sun, 2) amount of daylight hours, and 3) angle of the sun. Students are then directed to online data sources to determine if there is a correlation between the seasonal temperature data and the new data (e.g. amount of daylight hours) they collected. Students then try to explain if any correlations between (or among) the data sets are plausible.
Finally, the instructor then can direct students to the actual reasons for the seasons (e.g. angle of incidence of the sun's energy) through supporting activities or lecture.
Methods of GeoscienceThe method of geoscience addresses spatial and temporal thinking within the earth-moon-sun system.
Context for Use
The most important material for students is to have access to the Internet in order to collect online meteorological and astronomical data. This activity is designed to elicit students' conceptions (and possible misconceptions) about the seasons. Thus, this activity should be taught early in the course or unit. This activity is best modified to include cities that are the most relevant for students. However, one should choose cities with different latitudes. Other factors (e.g. distance from the ocean, elevation) should be kept as constant as possible (this, too, could be part of the lesson). It is also suggested that at least one city is local. Overall, it is very easy to make these modifications to this activity.
Description and Teaching Materials
- Reasons for the Seasons (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 244kB May7 12)