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Lessons > Sun Lessons: Seasons and Daylight

Sun Lessons

Day and Night | Seasons and Daylight | Shadows | Sun Shadows

Seasons and Daylight

Purpose: A visual for student to see how hours of daylight is determined by where the Sun shines most directly on Earth throughout the year

Key Concept: The change in hours of daylight throughout the year is related to the change in seasons

  • On the Summer Solstice, there is approximately 16 hours of daylight
  • On the Vernal (Spring) and Autumn Equinox, there is equal hour of day and night
  • On the Winter Solstice, there is approximately 8 hours of daylight

Multiple Intelligence: Spatial

Masking tape

Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Equator

Activity Description: Using a flashlight as the Sun and the wall as the Earth, the instructor demonstrates where the Sun shines on Earth most directly during each season and how hours of daylight are determined

Room preparations -
1. Apply tape horizontally dividing the wall in half to represent the equator.

2. Label top half the "Northern Hemisphere" and the bottom half "Southern Hemisphere." Label the distance ~ 1/4th distance above the equator "Tropic of Cancer" in the Northern Hemisphere and 1/4th the below the equator "Tropic of Capricorn."

1. Explain to students that because of the Earth's tilt, different locations on Earth receive more or less direct sunlight as Earth revolves around the Sun. (Display globe to show that Earth's axis is tilted 23.5 degrees).

2. Use the flashlight to motion that during a year, direct sunlight hits the Earth in a wave pattern as the seasons go by with the wave reaching it's highest point at the Tropic of Cancer and it's lowest point at the Tropic of Capricorn both 23.5 degrees respectively above and below the equator. Have students to notice that the Sun shines directly on the equator twice in a year.

3. Identify these times of year as the beginning of a new season and have students infer the seasons from this discussion.

Questions to Ask:
1. The first day of which two seasons have equal hours of daylight? How was this determined?

2. The first day of which season is the longest day of sunlight? Why?

3. The first day of which season is the shortest day of sunlight? Why?

4. What season is it in the Northern Hemisphere if the Sun is shining more directly above the equator?

5. What season is it in the Southern Hemisphere if the Sun is shining more directly in the Northern Hemisphere?

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Learn more about the sun in the Phenomena section of the Bringing the Heavens to Earth module.


Learn more about the seasons at the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum.

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