Seasons and Solstices
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Take this Internet Field Trip to learn about what causes the seasons and explore how changing seasons affect nature here on earth.
First let's look at the earth from the sun's point of view! Start your field trip at Here Comes the Sun, a step-by-step guide to the sun and its effect on the earth. See the earth rotate right on your screen. Then discover why Earth experiences an equinox in the fall and spring, and learn how the tilt of the earth's axis causes our summer and winter solstices. Finally, bring everything you've learned together and watch a live representation of the earth rotating on its axis and around the sun. Notice where the earth is and where the sunlight hits the earth at each solstice and equinox. Where is the earth now? Is the Northern or Southern Hemisphere getting more sunlight?
In our calendar we mark each equinox and solstice as the "first day" of a season. But the ancient Mayan cultures studied and celebrated these astronomical changes in different ways. At the Maya Astronomy Page, discover how the Maya observed the changing positions of the sun.
Now let's look at the seasons here on earth. One of the best places to observe seasonal changes is in a temperate deciduous forest, because the animals and plants are always adapting to the four seasons. Explore the Temperate Deciduous Forest site to learn more about these forests and their changing leaves. Be sure to view the Autumn Leaf Scrapbook. To create your own scrapbook, visit the Leaf Identification page to identify leaves in your town. This area is part of the Virtual Biomes site. Visit other biomes, like the tundra and the rainforest, and think about how the "seasons" in those places are different.