Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights

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Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights is a story written by Debbie S. Miller and illustrated by Jon Van Zyle.  Miller, a resident of Fairbanks, chronicles the seasonal changes that occur throughout the Alaskan wilderness.  The book starts and begins on June 21st, the summer solstice, and provides descriptions of how the animals that live in Alaska survive in the quickly changing environment.  With each page the author provides how many hours of daylight Fairbanks receives and the sunrise and sunset times for the 21st of each month.  Some of the animals that are included in the book are the bear, wolf, moose, rabbit and sandhill crane.  The important role the sun plays in the ecosystem of Alaska is highlighted throughout the book.  The aurora borealis are mentioned but there is also another phenomenon that is discussed that may not be as popular as the northern lights. That phenomenon is known as sun dogs, sun dogs are refracted light halos that form in ice crystals of cirrus clouds and are easily seen during the day.  This book is easy to read yet provides a wealth of information about the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Curriculum Connections
Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights is appropriate for instruction in a number of different lessons and activities. It can be used in the instruction of weather observations.(K.9a) The sun as a source of energy and warm, seasonal changes and how they affect animals.(1.6a)  Weather phenomena and the motions of the Earth and sun.(2.7a)  Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights is an excellent book to explain that the length of a day or night is closely related to your location on our planet.

Additional Resources

  • Fog in a Jar this activity is easy and related to weather and can be used to teach students about the atmopshere.
  • Cloudscapes this lesson plan is about the four types of clouds and allows students to make clouds using cotton balls.
  • Digital model of Earth rotating around the sun, this can be used to explain why the days in Alaska are so much longer in the summer and why the nights are long in the winter.

Book: Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights
Author: Debbie S. Miller
Illustrator: Jon Van Zyle
Publisher: Walker Publishing Company
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 28
Grade Range: 1-4
ISBN: 0-8027-9636-2