Lesson 1: The reasons for the seasons


This activity will require approximately three 30-minute classes

  • 1 class to introduce the topic, demonstrate the processes with flashlight and globe and to introduce the applet (activities 1 & 2)
  • 1 class period to have students work with the applet describing the reasons for the seasons (activity 3)
  • 1 class period for closure activity (activity 4)


Observe and explain how the relative positions of Earth, the Moon, and the Sun are responsible for the moon phases, eclipses, and tides.

General Objectives

Students will observe, sketch and explore the reasons for the seasons via the interactive applet, in an attempt to better understand the relationships between the Sun, Moon and Earth relating to the seasons.

Curricular Connections

  • Information and Communication Technologies
    • Use of interactive applet
  • Language Arts
    • Descriptive writing

Lesson Overview

By engaging students in a variety of activities targeting different learning styles (kinaesthetic, visual, and technological), students will become familiar with the seasons, and will be able to explain the reasons for the seasons depending on the orientation of the Sun, Moon, and Earth.

The lesson plan is divided into four separate activities:

  • Activity 1: demonstration of seasons (students participate)
  • Activity 2: introduce the applet to later be used by students
  • Activity 3: in the computer lab, students work with the Reasons for the Seasons applet in groups of two
  • Activity 4: closure activity, teacher uses the applet in a lecture-style delivery format stopping the animation at key moments and eliciting feedback from the students as to an explanation for the current seasons in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres

Materials and Resources

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Student handout:

Other Resources

  • Globe, model of the moon (a simple ball will do), and a bright flashlight


  • autumnal equinox
  • vernal equinox
  • summer solstice
  • winter solstice
  • lunar cycle

Developing the Lesson

Begin with focus questions:

  • Have you ever wondered why Canadians experience such vastly different weather patterns during the year?
  • Do you know why it is warmer in Canada during the summer?
  • Did you know that when Canadians are experiencing summer, our friends in Australia are experiencing winter?
  • Did you know that a winter in the Southern Hemisphere is a fair bit warmer than a winter in the Northern Hemisphere?

Explain the nature of the activities that will be used to help students become better acquainted with the reasons for the seasons:

  • Activity 1: students participate in a visual demonstration of the seasons with globe and flashlight
  • Activity 2: teacher uses computer with projection system to display the Reasons for the Seasons applet. Teacher explains how the applet works and what students will do with the applet in Activity 3
  • Activity 3: teacher demonstrates the applet and distributes the Reasons for the Seasons handout to the students. The students are given approximately 30 minutes to complete the handout using the applet.
  • Activity 4: simply mention to the students that there will be a final activity that will help to reinforce what they have learned about the seasons (Activity 4 should follow approximately 2 days after the completion of Activities 1, 2 and 3.

Commence the activities and remember to have fun.

Activity 1: click here for diagram

  1. arrange students into a large circle (students will need a piece of paper and a black marker)
  2. place a light source at the centre of the circle
  3. darken the classroom and turn on the light source
  4. students will pass a globe around the circle being careful to maintain the tilt of the Earth
  5. instruct students to observe the globe as they pass it to their classmates and to draw on their paper the shape of light impacting on the globe's surface
  6. initiate a short discussion as to why the light appear to impact the globe differently as it is passed around the circle
  7. have students write the season they observed on their diagrams (summer, fall, winter or summer)

Activity 2: Reasons for the Seasons applet (Flash Animation)

  1. with the classroom back in order, the teacher begins demonstrating the applet
  2. identify the key elements (Moon, Earth, and Sun)
  3. play the applet animation straight through at least two times
  4. have the students focus first on the Sun's rays impacting the Earth bottom right of the applet
  5. then have the students focus on the progression of the Earth around the Sun.
  6. run the animation a few more times stopping at key stages (Winter Solstice, Vernal Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Autumnal Equinox)

Activity 3:

  1. provide students with a brief review of the applet's functionality
  2. distribute the Reasons for the Seasons worksheet
  3. explain that students will be required to complete the handout by the end of the current class time

Activity 4:

  1. repeat steps as per Activity 2


As a closure to the activities, the teacher uses the applet in a lecture style delivery format, stopping the animation at key moments and eliciting feedback from the students as to an explanation for the current seasons in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.


Evaluate both student participation as well as the completion of the Reasons for Seasons worksheet. Student participation can be evaluated during activities 1, 2 and 3, even when the students are working with the applet. Students could also be presented with a short quiz in which they would have to correctly identify and explain the reasons for the seasons.