Web Resources for Teachers: Seasons and Solstices
Tour these websites with your class to explore what causes the seasons and how they affect nature.
First, look at the earth from the sun's point of view! Here Comes the Sun offers 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 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.
Then, have a 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 and visit the Leaf Identification page to identify leaves in your town (both are linked in the left-hand column of the main Temperate page). 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.