A Little Seasoning With Your Weather? (Background info for teachers)

     This Science inquiry is designed to allow students to build their own knowledge about the Earth-Sun model and how this applies to seasonal changes.   Although the Science textbook provides an explanation with diagrams, it does not provide statistical data to support the statements.   As a result, many students carry a misconception of the reason for seasonal changes, many times into adulthood.   One reason cited for this misconception is the very diagram used to explain the reason for seasonal changes in both hemispheres.   Even after teaching the concept to students, they may still hold onto the misconception that the seasonal changes are due to the Earth being closer to the Sun in the summertime and further away from the Sun in the wintertime.
     The NGSS  moves teachers away from just presenting facts for students to memorize and places them on the path of having students investigate the topic to then create their own model.   The textbook states that it is the tilt of the Earth as it revolves around the Sun that is the primary reason for seasonal changes.  Students read this information then look at the pictures.  Many times they come away with the impression that the Earth is closer to the Sun in the summer but further away in the winter. 

With no other data to rely on, the misconception continues.   The change in focus from remembering facts to creating a model means that students need to gather data to either confirm or refute the information.  therefore, students need to collect information on the actual distance variations and its significance to seasonal change.  They also need to collect data on temperature variations from points in the Northern and Southern hemispheres at approximately the same latitude for the same days.   Students also need to collect data on the length of daylight for the two locations as well as changes in solar angles or the same range of time.  then, with this data collection, students are able to consider the evidence collected and form their model of the Earth-Sun relationships and how this supports the statement of the tilt of the Earth as the primary reason for seasonal changes on Earth. 

Helping students understand the seasons at a deep level can provide a foundation that cuts across different domains of science. The patterns students identify in these lessons can then be applied to climate zones,  the behavior of light, and connecting the model of Earth as a planet in space with observations that students can make on their own using their own models and web sites with real time data collected for elements critical to their model.

Next Generation  Science  Standards:

The NGSS differ from the previous state standards with the embedded 3 dimensions throughout all of the NGSS.  These dimensions are:
1) Scientific and Engineering Practices.
2) Crosscutting concepts.
3) Disciplinary Core Ideas.

The integration of these 3 dimensions provides students and teachers with a clearer understanding of how science and engineering are implemented in real life. 
Rather than teaching concepts in isolation, the new standards embed engineering principles, using patterns, analysis of data, and how it applies to the concept being studied.  Through the identification of patterns and analysis of data, students are able to construct their model of the concept.  This constructivist approach leads to a deeper understanding of science and engineering principles for students and teachers.   The NGSS standards have been written as performance expectations to show exactly what students need to do in order to show proficiency with the science concepts at grade band levels throughout the student's school years.