Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Our Seasons

Introduction/Summary
Exploring the seasons is a very simple way to teach earth science to elementary school students.  Our Seasons, written by Grace Lin and Ranida T. McKneally, shows four young children experiencing the joys of each season while answering basic scientific questions about how the seasons affect weather, plants, and people.   The book answers the question “why do we have seasons?” in a very accessible and kid-friendly way, and offers a helpful illustration showing the rotation of the earth around the sun.  From this starting point, each of the following pages features lovely illustrations of the children enjoying the seasons and their natural phenomena, accompanied by seasonal haikus.  For example, in the cold autumn air, “Ki-Ki sees her breath./She pretends she’s a dragon/Blowing out hot steam.”  The text then answers the question, “Why do I see my breath?”  Other pages offer more fun illustrations, haiku, and seasonal questions and answers; for example: Why is there frost on the windows?  What makes a thunderstorm?  Why is the air sticky?  Parents will be very familiar with these often-asked questions, and they are charmingly answered here.  The book concludes with the question, “Does everyone have four seasons?,” and the authors explain that some regions of the world have only two, and even at the North or South Pole, you have a light season and a dark season, though both seasons are cold.  A glossary in the back provides helpful vocabulary for young readers.

Curriculum Connections
This picture book could be used to add more information to any earth science lesson focused upon the seasons and weather observations.  Kindergarten students learning about weather (K.8) or the different states of water (K.5) would certainly enjoy the pictures and an educator could simply conduct a picture walk through the book to talk about changes throughout the year.  Elementary students learning more about seasonal changes and their effects on weather phenomena (2.6, 3.8, 4.6) would enjoy this engaging book, and can see how seasonal change affects plants, people, and their surroundings (1.7, 2.7).  Fourth graders who are studying the motion of the Earth around the sun and the causes of the Earth’s seasons (4.7)  could utilize this as well.  Independent readers would enjoy this easy read, and it would be a good addition to the classroom library.  Educators could use the pictures and seasonal haiku as an inspired springboard for a science/language-arts activity.

Additional Resources

  • National Geographic’s Xpeditions: A Reason for the Season activities: Younger students can work as season sleuths over the course of the year as they draw pictures of a place in their yard or neighborhood on each of the solstices and equinoxes, recording observations about natural phenomena and noting activities that people enjoy during that time period.  Older students can investigate seasonal celebrations around the world and create their own celebrations using foods and flowers particular to each season.

  • Brain Pop:  Seasons:  This site provides fun information and animated videos about the seaons, the solstices and equinoxes, why birds seasonally migrate, and even offers a spotlight on winter and snow that offers hibernation information.

  • Not Just Cute’s blog post:  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons:  Don’t Just Listen, Get Up and Move!  (12/30/2009) – This blog site offers up many great ideas for preschoolers, but this lesson could certainly be adapted for any elementary grade level as it incorporates music and movement to talk about the seasons.  Many children have heard Vivaldi’s music before and this offers a great incentive to make a cross-curricular connection and can be extended into a visual art activity.

  • NASA Kids offers up two science activities to help explain the reason for the seasons and the role of water in each of the seasons. Their four seasons of water paper plate collage could easily be turned into a foldable activity.

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Weather Service has links to help explain seasonal weather patterns such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

  • Traditional Japanese haiku poems must contain a kigo, a season word, to indicate in which season the haiku is set.  For a lesson plan on how to introduce haiku into a seasons lesson plan, the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English’s readthinkwrite website offers great tips on how to get your students writing.

General Information