Why are there seasons?

Four SeasonsOf course you know that the sun is what keeps the earth warm. Even in the winter you can feel it’s warmth on a sunny day. If our earth stood up straight and circled around the sun with the north pole pointing up and the south pole pointing down, the seasons wouldn’t change. The equator would likely get very, very hot, while the poles would get very, very cold.

The earth, however, is not straight up and down, but tilted slightly 23.5 degrees. It takes a whole year to go around the sun and so when it is on one side of the sun, the north pole is tilted away from the sun (winter), and when it gets around to the opposite side of the sun, the north pole is tilted towards the sun (summer). Perhaps you can demonstrate this using an apple as earth (with it’s stem being the north pole) and an orange as the sun.

At the middle line around the earth (the equator) the sun would be straight overhead at noon. However, because the earth is a globe, the sun’s rays are at more of an angle, the further away you get from the equator. Try to go outside at noon one day and notice the sun’s position. The sun will be in the southern part of the sky — a little higher in the summer and a little lower in the winter.

You may also notice which windows in your house the sun comes in first thing in the morning, and what wall it shines on. This also changes during the year.

What time did the sun rise and set this week? During the winter, the sun rises later in the day and sets earlier. This allows less heat to accumulate. During the summer, however, the sun rises very early, and sets very late. In the far north, there is a period of time during the winter when the sun cannot be seen and it is always dark, and a period of time during the summer when the sun stays above the horizon day and night.

Do you know what goes on outside your home? When is the first frost? When can you find the first dandelion? When can you find pussy willows?

PROJECT: Use an existing calendar or make your own, to create a place in which to note seasonal and other events during the year that happen near you, such as the first snowfall or the first ripe strawberry. You could also use it to schedule seasonal traditions. You could read the book below and then illustrate your calendar using the names of the different moons.

Spring – Watch for the first robin, the first dandelion, the first pussy willows, the first tree out in leaf, watch for bird’s nests and egg shells, plant a few pea plants or some lettuce.

Summer – Make popsicles, have a picnic outside, go to the beach and build a sandcastle, pick strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cook corn on the cob, plant a vegetable garden and watch for the first harvest.

Fall – Notice the first coloured leaf, carve a pumpkin, rake leaves into a pile and jump in them, make a scarecrow, pick apples, notice the first frost, make jam.

Winter – Notice the first snowfall, the first day below 0 degrees C, go skating or skiing, go tobogganing, make gingersnaps, make hot chocolate or hot apple cider, decorate a gingerbread house.

BOOKS: Full Moon Rising, story by Joanne Taylor, illustrated by Susan Tooke, Tundra Books ISBN 0-88776-548-3 (picture book) The names of each moon celebrate the life of a farm family in Canada.

Do you have seasonal traditions? What special things do you do to make each season special or celebrate its arrival? If you like, leave them as a comment below.

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