Earth and Space Science

Seasons Misconception

Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:52 PM

There is a common misconception about why seasons come to be and it has to do with the position of the sun and the proximity of the Earth around it during Earth's revolution. How can this be addressed early on? Is the concept of the tilt of the axis to difficult to grasp during the upper elementary grade levels?

April Santillan
April Santillan
80 Activity Points

Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:26 AM

Hi April,

I found a collection of resources regarding seasons and weather, I wonder if any of these may be helpful to address the misconceptions your students bring with them:

Inside this collection is an article titled Science Shorts: The Reasons for the Seasons. This includes an activity you can use to address the misconception about what causes seasons in a hands-on way. Check it out inside the collection or at the link here:

Let us know if you use any of these in the classroom, I would love to hear how it goes!


Megan Doty
Megan Doty
5237 Activity Points

Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:01 AM

If they can make a connection to the idea that light from the sun heats the earths surface, there is something I first saw on Bill Nye's Seasons video. You use solar cells attached to a globe that are hooked up to volt meters to show how the changes by orientation of Earths axial tilt changes the amount of light.

Cris DeWolf
Cris DeWolf
10825 Activity Points

Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:52 AM

Understanding the tilt of the earth can be an issue with upper elementary students.   Megan and Chris gave you some good suggestions

The following can be a school year observation for your students.

Have your students  had much exposure to viewing the movement of the sun during the day and where it is located in the sky during different seasons?  If you have access to the outside and an unobstructed pole like a flag pole you could set up a monthly experiment on sunny day at noon.  Note where the shadow falls and how long the shadow is on the ground.  This give students an earth based observation about the tilt of the Earth

Another misconception which students hold about the earth and it orbit around the sun is that the earth is closer to the sun in the summer and that is why it is warmer.  Though the earth is actually closer in the winter you might want to explore why they think this is the case.  Being closer to a source of heat does feel warmer so they often apply that reasoning to the earth's orbit around the sun.

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
41595 Activity Points

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