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Why Do We Have Seasons? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jeremy Cook

I have been teaching elementary school for 16 years. I have extensive experience in lesson and curriculum development and educational technology.

Have you ever stepped out on a blazing hot day or walked through a snowstorm and wondered why we have seasons? Seasons on Earth are created by tilt and rotation and this lesson will help you learn why we have them.

It's All About the Tilt

Have you ever looked at a globe? If you have, you may have noticed that the north and south poles don't point straight up and down. In fact, the whole globe is tilted. It's this tilt that is the main cause of the seasons. When a basketball player spins a ball on his finger, the ball spins around with the bottom pointing down and the top pointing up. The basketball player's finger is holding the ball in place.

The Earth rotates on a tilt or axis as shown by the points on the top and bottom of the globe
BW Globe

The Earth has an imaginary finger that it spins around called the axis. The axis is the imaginary line or finger that the Earth spins around. But unlike the basketball, the axis is not right at the bottom of the Earth. If the Earth was a clock face, the north pole would point toward 1 o'clock and the south pole would be pointing to 7 o'clock.

Leaning Toward the Sun

So now that you can imagine the Earth spinning at a tilt and not like a basketball on a finger, imagine that the Earth rotates around the sun in a giant circle called an orbit, kind of like a big fly buzzing around your head. The tilt of the Earth stays the same direction, so when the Earth is to the far left of the sun, the north pole is tilted towards the sun, so the northern half, or hemisphere, is having the warmest season called summer. Now, since the north pole is tilted closer to the sun, the south pole is tilted away, making it the coldest season, winter, there because the sun is the farther away.

This photo shows how the suns rays hit the Earth as it rotates at an angle
Sun Angle

Six months later, the Earth will be to the far right of the sun so the north pole will now be pointing away from the sun and having winter, and the south pole will be pointing toward the sun and be in summer.

Earth in the Middle

As the Earth journeys from the far right of the sun to the far left and back, the Earth goes into the other two seasons of autumn and spring. These seasons happen in between summer and winter as the Earth moves from one end of its orbit to another. It takes one full year, or 365 and a quarter days for the Earth to go around the sun once.

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