Winter Solstice Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

Most people know that the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of winter, but not many understand what a solstice really is. In this lesson, we will take a closer look at the Winter Solstice and examine the history and traditions it has inspired.

Learning Objectives

By the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define winter solstice and explain its significance on the modern calendar
  • recreate a graphic depicting the path of the sun in our sky as Earth revolves around it


50-60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.


Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).


Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).



  • Begin by introducing the lesson.
    • Write the dates of the winter and summer solstices as well as the spring and autumnal equinoxes on the board and have students try to determine what the dates represent.
    • Explain that the dates represent the solstices and equinoxes in a calendar year and discuss their correlation with the seasons.
    • Tell students that this lesson is going to focus on the winter solstice.
    • Read the lesson description and allow for brief class discussion.
  • Show the first part of the video, ''What is the Winter Solstice,'' stopping at 0:36 mark.
    • Allow students to briefly discuss the idea of days getting shorter or longer.
    • Ask students to explain the winter solstice.
  • Show the next part of the video, ''Equinoxes and Solstices,'' stopping at the 1:10 mark. Discuss:
    • What are the two solstices? Which seasons do they identify?
    • What are the two equinoxes? Which seasons do they identify?
    • Which event marks the longest day of the year? Shortest?
  • Continue the video by showing, ''Spins on its Axis,'' stopping at the 3:13 mark. Discuss:
    • What is an axis? Rotation? A revolution?
    • What amount of time does one revolution around the sun signify?
    • Where is the sun during the winter months? Why?
    • How about during the summer months?
    • What is unique about the amount of sunlight at the north pole during the winter? During the summer?
  • Show the next part of the video, ''History of the Winter Solstice,'' stopping at the 4:51 mark. Discuss:
    • What are some of the traditions and festivities associated with the winter solstice?
  • Show the remainder of the video and discuss the ''Lesson Summary.''
  • Administer the Quiz and go over the answers as a group to check for understanding.


To reinforce learning, walk students through the following activity.

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