ERN Item Type:
- Classroom Activities
Seasons Interactive provides students with the opportunity to investigate how Earth's angle of inclination affects three factors: the angle of incoming sunlight, average daily temperatures and the Sun’s ecliptic path. Three preset values for the angle of inclination are available (corresponding to the values of Earth, Venus and Uranus). Additionally, users may select an angle value from a sliding scale. Users can control the speed of the simulation or may pause it when needed. Students are able to compare the heights of the ecliptic paths during the course of the year by checking the “Trace Sun’s Path” box. From this information, students will be able to construct an explanation for the occurrence of seasons. Exercises with solutions are included, as well as a self-assessment located below the simulation. Teachers should be aware of several weaknesses in the simulation. First, the model allows students to reverse the motion of the Earth around the Sun which could lead to misconceptions. Secondly, the model overemphasizes the elliptical path of the Earth which often leads to the misconception that seasons are caused by distance from the Sun. Lastly, while the Sun is shown moving across the sky during the day (from Earth's view), the stars are left static during the night.