Science Teacher Tips: How to Use Earth Science Misconceptions to Ignite Student Discussions during Equinoxes and Solstices

Summer solstice is here, and if you’re like me, you haven’t always had a clear vision of what the summer solstice really is. Popular pagan holiday? Longest day of the year? While both of those facts may be true, there is a lot more nuance to understanding the summer solstice. Read on for some basic facts about the seasons, and ideas for using discussions about earth science misconceptions in your classroom.

  1. There are two summer solstices on Earth. Yes, two, it is an embarrassment of riches! In the northern hemisphere the summer solstice falls near June 20-21. In the southern hemisphere, our friends “down under” celebrate the solstice near December 21-22.
  2. In my humble opinion, all adults should be able to draw the image below to explain the reason for the seasons:
  3. We have two solstices and two equinoxes. Equinox and solstice aren’t synonymous. Equinox literally means “equal night”. During the equinoxes, more of our planet is being hit directly by the sun, versus one hemisphere receiving the bulk of the direct sunlight. As a result, locations closer to the equinox receive almost equal amounts of dark and light. This changes as you increase in latitude away from the equator. The solstices are what we call the longest (summer) and shortest (winter) days. In areas with high latitudes, like above the Arctic Circle, villages receive almost no sunlight during the winter solstice and almost no nighttime during the summer solstice.

One way to create student-centered lessons is to provide students with opportunities to do the bulk of the talking. This can be tough if you are used to being the “sage on the stage” or crave the spotlight. Discussion cards can be an effective resource in turning over the talk time to your students. Here is an example of one of my Summer Solstice Discussion Cards Summer Misconceptions and Summer Facts cards:

*Note that this sheet includes four discussion questions. Simply cut out the cards and pass 3-4 cards out to groups of students.

*The cards each have a common misconception about summer OR a summer fact to prompt student discussion.

*These cards could be used for small-group discussion time, as a center during your earth science lessons, or as warm up questions.

In a 50 minute class period, student discussion should take 15-20 minutes of class time. Why? Students need to share ideas, use vocabulary words in context, and to grapple with complicated science concepts. After doing small group discussions, you can easily increase the discussion time by asking your students to share their questions and answers with the whole class.

Click on the image to the right to purchase this Summer Solstice Discussion Card set on Teachers Pay Teachers for $3!

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