Here’s a project that is especially appropriate for Kindergarten and First Grade students. It does requires some effort from all involved, but the results are very worthwhile!
Objective: Youngsters learn about the sequence of the seasons by associating these times of the year with classic outdoor activities for human children. They consider the life events of some other conspicuous, non-human life forms in northeastern North America, and the characteristic weather for the various times of the year. They build their understanding of these patterns through a verbal discussion of an illustrated poster of the Seasons. Their comprehension is also reinforced when they construct a small Seasons Clock and participate in a singing circle game that offers opportunities for creative impersonations.
NSGS Core Ideas:
LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
LS3.C Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
LS4.D Social Interactions and Group Behavior
LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Earth and Space Sciences
ESS 1 Earth’s place in the universe
NSGS Practices: Asking Questions, Developing and Using Models
NSGS Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns, Cause and Effect, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Stability and Change
- 1 Seasons Poster illustration
- Bright yellow paper plates (symbolizing the Sun’s gift of precious electromagnetic energy). Students will be learning that the seasons are caused ultimately by the variations in solar energy reaching different parts of the earth during different parts of the planet’s year-long revolution around the sun. This variation happens because of the tilt of the earth’s axis with regard to the plane of its revolution.
- Seasons Clock Illustrations for the youngsters to color and cut out (one for each child).
- Colored pencils, graphite pencils and crayons
- Push Pin
- Brass fasteners (one for each child’s project)
- Optional: Rulers so the youngsters can check / prove that the center of their Season’s Clock is indeed equidistant from all the outer edges of the circle
Overview: Constructing a Seasons Clock for our temperate climate is usually an intriguing activity for five- and six-year-old children. The youngsters discuss and color panels representing the annual succession of weather with particular reference to their favorite outdoor activities; the changes observable in an apple tree (an iconic deciduous tree of New England – although it’s definitely not native to this region); and the activities of a few conspicuous, local, non-human animals.
We usually encourage the children to associate their particular birth month with one of the seasons as well. This is a pleasant way to engage their attention. It also helps them to remember the trio of months usually associated with each of the seasons. This also prompts them to think of themselves – at least for a short time – as a member of one of four distinct cohorts: the “Spring Babies,” the “Summer Babies” etc., a distinction that can be made more memorable by using these categories to sort the groups into teams on future occasions.
To summarize, the above procedures and imagery are designed to make the seasons’ sequence clearer and more vivid in the children’s minds. They draw their attention to the crucial feature of cycles in Nature. Additionally, the younger students seem particularly captivated by the fact that the ‘clock’ that they’re making possesses a moveable pointer hand. This pointer can be spun (thanks to a central brass fastener) if the youngsters can coordinate deliberate and careful motions of their hands. This fine motor challenge intrigues many of them.
While I might attach the pointer to both the scene and the plate for the younger students, the older ones like to do this themselves. Simply show them how them how to use a push pin to carefully poke a small hole through the center of the pointer. Follow the same procedure with the center of Seasons Clock Drawing. Next demonstrate to them how to enlarge these holes by using a sharp pencil as an awl. They should gently spin the point of the pencil back and forth – another good fine motor skill that they seem to enjoy learning. Because the paper plates are tough, I usually make the holes through the center of these before we do the project. I find the precise center by folding one plate in half vertically and then horizontally. Of course, the center resides where the two fold lines intersect. I carefully cut out one of the resulting pie shaped quarters and superimpose it over the next plate’s center, marking it with a pencil. I use a push pin and the pencil as described earlier to make the holes. The youngsters can then stack the perforated paper plate, colored drawing of the seasons, and the paper pointer in the correct order. You can show them how to join these layers together by passing the brass fastener’s point through the aligned holes and then bending out and flattening the two brass arms.
Once the clock is completed, students can be asked to point to specific features during a subsequent discussion, and as they do this, you can quickly confirm visually that they are following the conversation. The finished clock can be taken home to share with parents and siblings.
This project was originally designed to complement the “Circle of the Seasons” activity which I used with my classes for many years. This activity features a bit of creative dramatics, sociable circling / coordinated motion, singing, and natural history information about a few key creatures and seasonal phenomena of the NE Woodlands. You can find more information about this activity, including lyrics for each of the four seasons, directions for playing, and a basic melody on this website. (It’s listed on the menu immediately following the Seasons Clock Activity.) This activity seemed to be well like by my students, and we used it to begin many classes featuring nature discovery walks – even if these walks were just out the door to admire the changing tree tops, clouds, birds, or insects around our school building.
By the way, one other advantage to both the Seasons Clock and the Circle of the Seasons activities, particularly for those of you teaching programs at Nature Centers, is that they can be started at any season of the year!
Extensions for Older Students: This sort of project can also be readily modified into a wonderful free-hand drawing or collage activity using blank paper plates (or much larger circular surfaces) divided into quarters. Quantitative data such as temperature ranges and / or rainfall and snowfall averages can be included with the students’ own creation / selection of visual imagery. For older students, this activity can even be adapted to highlight the Solstices and the Equinoxes.
Here’s the PDF for the younger set: Circle of the Seasons Clock Activity EB