Welcome Winter with wonderful works!
While everyone is gearing up for final holiday preparations, a fantastic event may have been overlooked: The Winter Solstice (which just so happens to be TODAY, December 21)! In case you missed it (at 5:44 AM Eastern Standard Time), the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year) is an annual occurrence that ushers in the season of winter. While we can anticipate dipping temperatures and blustery conditions, there is a prevalent perk—from this point forward, days will gradually gain more and more sunlight. With that in mind, we recommend using this force of nature to help create engaging and exciting activities within your classroom?! “Weather” you are looking for a quick and fun fix for the last two days of classes before break, or a jumpstart to the new year, check out these four wonderful works!
ELA – Winter Solstice Poetry
It’s fairly safe to say that nature offers quite a bit of writing inspiration, particularly when creating Haikus. Challenge students, in either primary or secondary classes, to compose Haikus that relate to the change in season, using readwritethink.org. With this resource, students develop a clear understanding of Haiku structure and are able to add aesthetic components to their creations! Additionally, teachers may choose to explore The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice, by Wendy Pfeffer with their students. The story encompasses literary elements, as well as scientific fact and corresponding experiments. This could provide cross-curricular opportunities in the elementary classroom.
Earth Science – Reason for the Season
The Winter Solstice is truly an Earth Science holiday. Teachers can explore Earth’s axial tilt, position along its orbital path, and more during this time of year! As a former Earth Science teacher, I would use the Winter Solstice as an opportunity to engage my class in a game of “Seasonal Hot Potato.”
- Select one student to be, “The Sun.”
- The sun will stand at the center of a student-circle (slightly oval-shaped to mimic Earth’s elliptical path) while holding a flashlight.
- Advise the sun student to rotate-in-place to follow the globe with the flashlight at all times as it passes from one student to another.
- The globe will be handed to one student at random to begin.
- When music starts, students will pass the globe so that it moves in a counter-clockwise motion. (Keep in mind, students should be instructed to hold the globe so that the North Pole always points in the same direction. Select one wall in the room, for example, to replicate Polaris – The North Star).
- Strategically pause the music when the globe is showing each of the four seasons.
- Ask students engaging and prompting questions at each seasonal stop!
You may also want to check out The Burlington Science Center for interactive simulations and more!
Math – Solar Angles and Graphs
The change in seasons coincides with changes in solar angles at this time of year. Teachers can use GeoGebra and SMART Math Tools within the SMART Learning Suite to create interactive graphs to further explore this phenomenon. Within the math classroom, teachers can guide students to create bar graphs illustrating the change in daylight hours over the course of a week. As a STEM connection, students can explore how this concept relates to GPS and solar panel systems. Regardless of the grade level you teach, this can be a relevant and engaging topic to introduce to students that connects math to real-world events.
History – Evolution of Solstice Celebrations
Stonehenge in Salisbury, England and the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt are just two of several synthetic structures that were created with the Winter Solstice in mind. Throughout the course of history, ancient civilizations have marked this day to further study how the Solar System works. In some cultures, the solstice is still celebrated in present times!
Students can engage in an activity in which they create a travel brochures to different regions that commemorate the Winter Solstice. Their findings can be shared as they present their work through portraying travel agents! For help, visit readwritethink.org once again for lesson ideas and resources! Virtual field trips to solstice-celebrating destinations, may be an exciting option, as well! A wonderful resource for a Stonehenge Field Trip activity of this nature is EnglishHeritage.org. Students can take a 360 tour of the landmark as well as learn exciting facts about its most prominent components.
Keep in mind, it may be beneficial to create corresponding worksheets with each of the aforementioned activities. Recently, our Curriculum Specialists delivered a course highlighting best practices for creating effective handouts using Microsoft Publisher. To help you get started, check out our video in our archive: http://onlinepd.teq.com/events/view/13721
For More Information
For more ideas and info, be sure to check out these additional great resources!