1. Topic-
Earth's Place in the Universe
 
2. Content-
Vocabulary: axis, equator, hemisphere, latitude, season, Summer solstice, Winter solstice
Key Understanding: The orbits of the Earth around the sun and the orbit of moon around the Earth, together with the rotation of the Earth on an axis between its North and South Pole, cause observable patterns.
 
3. Goals: Aims/Outcomes-
1. Learn what causes seasons.
2. Observe the tilt of Earth's axis and why the sun's rays hit at different angles at different times of the year.
3. Relate seasons to the duration and direction of sunlight.
 
4. Objectives-
1. Students will be able to explain how the Earth's tilt, revolution, and rotation cause seasons.
2. Students will be able to represent data in tables to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night.
3. Students will be able to identify seasons parts of the globe are experiencing based on a diagram of the sun and the earth.
 
5. Materials and Aids-
Sun Finder Globe Model, Smartboard for Explore Learning Gizmo Activity (Student Exploration: Summer and Winter)
 
6. Procedures/Methods-

A. Introduction-

The Sun Finder is an apparatus that demonstrates how the sun shines on the Earth throughout the year. You place a globe on a rotating base that is labeled in 365-day increments, and an attached light shines on the surface of the globe. For the introductory activity, the students will gather around a table to look at the where the sun's rays on focused on Earth for the current date. Students will be asked to discuss what they notice about the sun's rays in relationship to the current length of day, weather, and season. Further, students will be asked to predict how the sun's rays will be six months from now. Additional opening questions will include:
- When during the year is the sun the highest in the sky? The lowest?
- When during the year are days longest? Shortest?
- Why do you think it is colder in the winter than the summer?
 

B. Development-

Students will move back to their seats so they can view the interactive "Gizmo" activity (virtual manipulative) on the Smartboard courtesy of explorelearning.com. As a "warm-up" we will look at different snapshots of Earth as it orbits the sun. While discussing the snapshots, the following vocabulary will be reviewed/introduced:
- The white line going through the North Pole and South Pole is Earth's axis.
o Does the axis go straight up and down, or is it tilted?
- Latitude indicates how far you are from the equator, a line around Earth's middle.
- The half of the Earth north of the equator is called the northern hemisphere. The half of the Earth below the equator is called the southern hemisphere.
- A season is a major division of the year, based on regular weather changes.
- The summer solstice is the first day of summer (June 21). The winter solstice is the first day of winter (December 21).
Demonstrate how to turn utilize the interactive activity on the website so you can turn on the sun's rays and adjust the position of the person on Earth.
 

C. Practice-

Complete the first "Gizmo" activity on the Smartboard as a class. Begin by forming a hypothesis: In the northern hemisphere, why do you think it is colder in December than in June. Have students write each write their own hypothesis, then allow a few students to share. Next, begin collecting data using the virtual manipulative of the Earth and sun. Students will record the following data for the 40° N location in a data table:
- The number of Sun rays hitting the solar panel on June 21 and December 21.
- The temperature on each date.
- The June 21 day length and December 21 day length.
- The angle of the Sun's rays on each date (using the "show protractor" tool).
Discuss how the angle of the sun rays relate to the temperature and the differences in hours daylight and amount of sunlight on the solar panels for each date. Based on this data, have students write down two reasons why it is colder in the winter than the summer.
 

D. Independent Practice-

Students will complete the next activity on laptops. Students can work individually or in pairs, depending on the availability of computers. The second activity will mirror the first one done together, except students will be making a hypothesis and collecting data for the southern hemisphere at the 40° S location. Students will collect and record their data in a table, and answer the following questions to be turned in:
1. What is the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere?
2. What is the first day of summer in the southern hemisphere?
3. How are season in the southern hemisphere related to seasons in the northern hemisphere.
4. How does the Earth's tilt affect the seasons? (Students can manipulate the tilt of the axis with the virtual manipulative to develop an answer.)
 

E. Accommodations (Differentiated Instruction)-

Depending on the needs of the students, this lesson can be modified by: allowing students to type or hand write their responses, allowing students to work in pairs, or allowing the use of the virtual manipulative in conjunction with the Sun Finder model.
 

F. Checking for understanding-

In addition to the Independent Practice questions, students will complete a related homework assignment. For homework tonight, students will be asked to respond to the following prompt: Describe what June 21 and December 21 would be like on the North Pole and the equator.
 

G. Closure-

Before dismissal, allow students to view the Sun Finder model again, when set at both June 21 and December 21 and discuss observations about the North Pole and the equator for their homework.
 
7. Evaluation-
After a few more days of instruction, students will take a matching/short answer quiz. Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of the related vocabulary, as well as describe in writing the differences between the winter and summer solstices.
 

This Lesson Plan is available at (www.teacherjet.com)