Rationale and Objectives
The goal of this Earth lesson plan is to help children internalize and remember rotation and revolution of the Earth around the sun. This multiple intelligence classroom activity helps visual/spatial learners, as well as kinesthetic learners.
At the end of this rotation and revolution of the Earth lesson, the kids in your class will be able to:
- Define and describe rotation
- Define and describe revolution
- Explain why the sun is in different places in the sky at different times of day
Rotation of the Earth
Rotation refers to the rotation of the Earth on its axis. The simplest way to demonstrate this concept is to bring a preferably large globe into the classroom. Explain to the students that the Earth does spin around and then spin the globe.
- Explain that the Earth spins around once every day. Place a floor lamp in the middle of the demonstration area and turn it on. Mention that the lamp acts as the Sun and of course, the Sun is always “on” and always shining. If young students express confusion at this, tell them this demonstration will show them how the Sun is still shining, even at night.
- Show students their approximate location on a map, and tape a cotton ball, very small figurine or sticker onto the area on the globe used for demonstration.
- Ask a volunteer to help. The volunteer will hold the globe while the teacher holds a clock. Use a clock with hands that are easy to move, such as a time-teaching clock.
- Ask the volunteer to please hold the globe so that the figurine (or whatever you choose to use) is in the direct light of the lamp, or “Sun”. Announce that it is high noon and show high noon on the clock. Notice together how the figurine is getting the most light of anywhere on the globe.
- Explain to the class that it will take 12 hours for the figurine to travel just halfway around. As you move the clock to 1:00, the volunteer should move the globe a little. Do this together hour by hour so the class can see what is happening.
- By the time you are at 6:00, your volunteer student should have moved the figurine 45 degrees. Stop at this point so students can observe the angle of the light on the figurine. Discuss how this angle is similar to the angle of light near dusk. Notice the long shadow of the figurine which is like the long shadows people see as evening approaches.
- Continue for the next six hours to midnight and stop again. Notice how there is no light on the figurine, and ask the kids what they think anyone located here on the globe would be doing at this time. (Answer: Sleeping, of course.)
- Continue another six hours and ask them to take notice of how the Sun is rising on the spot on the globe with the figurine. Hour by hour, back to high noon.
- Point out again that this demonstration showed the rotation of the Earth on its axis over the course of one day.
Revolution of the Earth Around the Sun
Discuss how all the while the Earth is spinning round and round, it is also moving around the Sun. Use a smaller globe, if necessary, and walk around the lamp while spinning the globe.
Let children take turns holding the smaller globe and walking around the lamp. They will also enjoy using their bodies as the Earth and walking around the lamp and spinning at the same time. Doing these things themselves will cement the lesson in their minds.
Continuing to discuss these concepts with the class over the course of the theme is recommended. A teacher can gage how well a child has retained and how well a child understands information by asking questions and allowing discussion.
It is the author’s personal experience that incorporating movement into any lesson plan idea helps first and second grade students understand and remember. She has developed numerous short lesson plans to help instructors of many subjects.
Science Online has some lovely ideas for teaching rotation and revolution of the Earth lessons for kids, as astronomy concepts are broken down by grade level.
This post is part of the series: Astronomy Lessons and Project Ideas for Teachers
- Earth Lesson Plan: Rotation and Revolution
- Make Your Own Sun Dial Project: Teach Elementary Students about the Earth's Rotation