Sample lesson for teaching Seasons with animations

This is an example lesson for teaching using simulations or animations which I created after an ESPRIT workshop with Dan Harris of Salisbury University. This approach is also quite analogous to the venerable 5E method. Depending on the complexity of the concept, this particular approach can be condensed into one 50 minute lesson, or spread out over 2-3 days. This lesson was written for 8th grade level science students.

Imagine that you have to teach the concept The Reason for the Seasons.

Start with a story or hook. I start with a story about my nephew moving to Chile and he tells me about going swimming and the heat etc. When I taught this, it was winter and I continue the story with my not understanding how my nephew could be swimming when it is snowing in Maryland, Someone in the class will tell me that there are different seasons in the Southern Hemisphere - I act surprised or 'REALLY???' and then we can proceed to the next step.

Part 1. Why do we have seasons? On your paper, write whatever you know about seasons and why we have them. Are they the same everywhere. Use words, phrases and diagrams to explain your ideas. ( Allow 2-3 minutes)

(Have students complete Part 1 on their paper. The first few times you use this approach, they will want help, want to use a text, etc. Remind them, this is just to make a record of their current knowledge - their knowledge will grow.)

Part 2. Explain to your group or partner your ideas from part 1. Show them your diagram and your thoughts on why we have seasons.
Listen to their explanation. Feel free to make changes or additions to your part 1. (Allow 3-5 minutes) Discuss some of their ideas aloud, record on the board or overhead / doc camera.

Part 3. View the following animations on seasons:

Geo - Science Animations:
Seasons Game:
What Causes Earth's Seasons:

Part 4. Think again about what causes seasons. Why do we have seasons? On your paper, use your new knowledge to exlain why we
have seasons. Use words, phrases and diagrams to explain your ideas.

Part 5. Compare your new explanation, Part 4, to your original explanation. How has your knowledge changed. What specifically do you understand now, that you did not before?

(Students will NOT want to do Part 4 and Part 5, but they are crucial to building new and corrected knowledge of the concept. Part 5 allows them to see that they have learned, increased their knowledge / understanding.)

I have used this method many times now and my students and I love it - thank you Dan Harris from SU.