Using Seasonal Changes as a “Spring”-Board for Student Learning During Your Earth Science Unit

The best gift for the first day of spring  is a sunny day! After receiving enough snow for a district-wide snow day last week, the first day of spring sprung with sunshine the whole day. And while I might have been thrilled to emerge from my winter hibernation, I also ended up with a bit of a sunburn!

The first day of spring is also referred to as the vernal equinox, but what is that, anyway? How is this a cross-curricular topic?

The reason for the Earth’s season is the Earth’s 23.5° tilt, which is always pointing towards Polaris. Depending on where the Earth is in it’s one-year orbit around the sun, your hemisphere may be in the direct sunlight of the summer, the indirect sunlight of the winter, or somewhere in-between. 

In the fall and the spring, the equator is receiving direction sunlight. Equinox means, “equal night” in Latin, so during the vernal (spring) and autumnal (fall) equinoxes, locations near the equator should receive equal amounts of light and darkness on those days. The actual day of an equinox can vary since the earth doesn’t take exactly 365 days to complete its orbit around the sun. The spring equinox is usually between March 20-22, while the fall equinox is often between September 20-22.

Discussion cards are a cross-curricular tool that supports language arts speaking standards, social studies standards, and earth science standards. Low prep-just cut them out and pass cards out to your students!

The equinoxes and the winter and summer solstices have long histories of celebrations in different cultures. Combining the science of an equinox with the cultural significance of the equinoxes in your lessons can be a great way to teach cross-curricularly. Teaching from students’ misconceptions about science concepts is a great way to engage students in learning AND can lead to long-term understanding of the science topic. These discussion cards are quick, low-prep activities that include 16 discussion topics and a teacher’s key. Just cut out the cards for an easy center activity that will support social studies and speaking learning targets in addition to earth science standards.

Plan for all of your season-themed lessons with this bundle of discussion cards. Includes facts and misconceptions for autumnal equinox, winter solstice, vernal equinox and summer solstice.

Have you tried Pear Decks™ yet?  A few months ago a colleague returned from a conference and said, “You absolutely need to make one of these for your science class right away!” Taking the time to teach myself a new technology resource during the school year seemed overwhelming. Over summer break, I created a slide deck compatible with Google Slides™ and watched a few YouTube videos to help me understand how to use the Pear Deck™ add-on. It’s really simple!

This fall deck is perfect for the fall equinox. Use it to start fun conversations in your middle school science classroom. To support you in using this Pear Deck™, I’ve included a how-to screencast (please note that the product shown in the screencast is not included in this resource)

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