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Winter just a week away

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Winter is just one week away. We are in the last days of autumn, a beautiful time of transition.

It is also a beautiful time for some classroom fun, no matter the grade. Teachers, especially elementary school teachers, have a wonderful opportunity to delve into some pretty cool science with the younger groups.

The Winter Solstice marks a pretty significant part of the year. Since the Autumnal Equinox back in September, when daylight and night time were of equal length, daylight has quietly been losing time, literally. Shorter days, longer nights, lots of fun.

The last full day of autumn will be on Friday, December 20. On December 21, the solstice will occur at 9:11 a.m. PST. On this day, day and night start to switch rolls. The first full day of winter is on December 22.

From the 21st all the way through to March 20, the days get longer while night time hours are shorter. On March 20, the Vernal Equinox, night and day are again equal in length.

It looks like the sun is lower in the sky, and it is. The reason it is lower is where the science part comes in, in many ways.

On this day, the earth has tilted a bit. Our north pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. The sun hasn't actually dropped in the sky. We have simply tilted away from it. Pretty cool.

Depending on the grade level being taught, this information is ripe for quite a lot of celestial science.

For the little ones, the Kindergartners and first graders, a simple way to illustrate what the solstice means, and to bring to life this slowly changing phenomenon, is to go outside.

Take a piece of chalk, which hopefully still exists in classrooms, and, noting the time, measure the length of the children's shadows. Do that every day, at the same time, with the same children, and have fun with the results.

For the older ones, a little math comes into play, a bunch of reading is warranted, and some earth and sun science is called for. Art should be in the mix too. What a great package of opportunities.

At the very least, going outside and enjoying the change in the sunlight is worth the time. Understanding the seasons, and the reason for them, provides great teaching moments in any classroom.

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