• iceberg
  • boy with flowers
  • checking water quality
  • planet eclipse
  • solarsystem model
  • rangitoto trees
  • kids with test tubes
  • kids with earth
  • snowy mountains
  • teens in physics class
  • Rainbow Clouds

    Refraction and diffraction of light through ice crystals in the clouds

  • Philippa On The Ice

    Philippa On The Ice Philippa Werry at an Antarctic research camp 2016

New Zealand Science Teacher

Science Curriculum/Scientific Literacy

Reasons for our seasons: earth science comes alive

This is your invitation to connect your students with an earth science class in New York.

Andy Webster teaches earth science at Wayland-Cohocton High School, which is in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Most of his students are 14-15 years old.

Andy contacted New Zealand Science Teacher to see if some science teachers might be interested in collaborating with him on a project: The reason for the seasons.

The idea is that on the critical days of the year (September 23, December 21, March 21, and June 21), students in New York, Australia or New Zealand, northern Alaska, and Ghana make a short 2-5 minute video about the path of the sun and how the seasons affect people living in their part of the world at this time of year. Andy will then add animations to the videos using Google Earth and some astronomy computer simulations.

Last year, he started the project. You can see the video here.

Andy writes about the Reasons for the our seasons project here:

“I heard once that the number one misconception in Earth Science is about what causes the seasons. There is even this story about a bunch of Harvard University graduates who couldn’t correctly explain the cause of the seasons. (Here’s a link.)

“I got the idea for this project because I thought it would make the topic come alive for my students if they could hear stories from people around the globe about how the seasons affect them. I contacted some acquaintances in northern Alaska, Ghana, and New Zealand and asked them to make some videos for my science classes. At first, I thought the project would be very simple – people telling stories about how an Alaskan winter can be dark for days at a time, or how Christmas is a summer holiday in New Zealand (which is, by the way, completely shocking and unbelievable to my students!). But as the project evolved, the best part of it became the connections we developed. My students had so many questions about what life was like in other parts of the world that went way beyond the curriculum. It was an incredibly meaningful project for us to be able to interact with people who live so far away.

“When I did the project last year, my students were communicating with a few adults. It was a great experience, but I think this could be so much more meaningful if students could interact with other students. I’m hoping to make some long-term connections with other teachers across the globe so we can sustain this project for years to come. Ultimately, I’d like to not only use this to teach about the seasons but also for many other topics in Earth Science. When my students learn about the Coriolis effect, I’d like them to think of students they know in New Zealand and be able to ask them questions about how the wind is blowing. When they learn about monsoons, I’d like them to think about the students they know in Ghana.”

The videos

The video clips Andy has made so far can be viewed below.

Wayland, New York, USA

Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

Palmerston North, New Zealand

Scientific explanations: the reasons for the seasons

How can interested teachers get involved?

“If you are interested in making some international connections for your students, I’d love to hear from you,” says Andy. “Basically, I’d like teachers to know that I hope this project can be an exchange. I’m not familiar with the New Zealand Earth Science curriculum, specifically, but if there is a topic you are teaching I’d be happy to make a video to help you out. For example, the Finger Lakes region of New York has been shaped by glaciers. I’d love to show your students the U-shaped valleys, drumlins, and till we see all around us. The more students in other parts of the world ask us to show you, the more my students will learn, too. So it’s really a win-win.”

Andy’s email address is awebster@wccsk12.org.

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