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Database Provider

Author

Khan Academy

Grades

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th

Subjects

Science, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Video, 4 minutes, 38 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus

Global

Seasons Aren't Dictated by Closeness to Sun

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Synopsis
  • This video explains that the Earth's elliptical orbit, which sometimes causes the Earth to be closer to the sun, has nothing to do with the seasons. 
  • This is the first video of a number of videos about the effects of Earth's rotation and tilt on the planet. 
  • A season simulator is also available that shows how the intensity and angle of sunlight varies at different latitudes and times of the year. 
Teaching Tips

Positives

  • The video introduces students to perihelion and aphelion with a simple illustration.
  • A full transcript of the video is available.

Additional Prerequisites

  • The concept is a basic one, but it can be integrated into more advanced topics for older students.
  • The season simulator moves quickly. Teachers can pause it by clicking the pause icon in the top left-hand corner.

Differentiation

  • Before watching the video, classes could take a poll to see how many students believe the seasons depend on the Earth's proximity to the Sun.
  • Science and math classes could use a flashlight and a ball to perform an experiment to measure the surface area of the circle of light when it is shining at the middle of the ball vs. when it is shining at the top-half or bottom-half of the ball. 
  • English language or world language classes could discuss the root words and prefixes of the terms perihelion and aphelion.
  • Other resources on this topic include this video that shows how the Earth's tilt causes the seasons, this lesson on the relationship between latitude and climate, and this article on how climate change is confusing plants and animals. 
Scientist Notes
In this video, the myth that Earth's closeness to the Sun dictates the seasons is deconstructed and disproven. While proximity to the Sun does play a role, the true cause of Earth's seasons is its tilt. This resource is recommended for teaching,
Standards
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS1: Earth’s Place in the Universe
      • HS-ESS1-4 Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.
    • ESS2: Earth’s Systems
      • MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.
    • PS3: Energy
      • MS-PS3-3 Apply scientific principles to design, construct, and test a device that either minimizes or maximizes thermal energy transfer.
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