Seasonal Change on Land and Water

The GLOBE Program
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Image/Image Set , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Map
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



“Seasonal Change on Land and Water” is a worksheet-based activity in which students interpret maps of incoming solar radiation, average surface temperatures, and land and sea distributions to investigate the reason for seasonal changes in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Students use the visualizations to develop an explanation for why one hemisphere experiences warmer summers although it receives less total solar energy based on specific heat of land and water and the size of the landmasses in both hemispheres.


The authors state the lesson should take one 45-minute class period, although it may take longer.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS2-6 Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how patterns vary by latitude, altitude, and geographic land distribution. Emphasis of atmospheric circulation is on the sunlight-driven latitudinal banding, the Coriolis effect, and resulting prevailing winds; emphasis of ocean circulation is on the transfer of heat by the global ocean convection cycle, which is constrained by the Coriolis effect and the outlines of continents. Examples of models can be diagrams, maps and globes, or digital representations

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the dynamics of the Coriolis effect.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students use diagrams of incoming sunlight and surface temperature maps of landmass distribution and seasonal temperature changes to explore seasonal change and climate in the northern and southern hemisphere. The lesson specifically addresses the unequal heating of the Earth in the visualizations. To further address the Performance Expectation, the teacher may want to follow this lesson with a lesson on atmospheric and oceanic circulation. The NOAA lesson “Adopt a Drifter: Do Ocean Surface Currents Influence Climate?” reviewed at addresses oceanic circulation. The lesson “Air Masses and Fronts” reviewed at addresses atmospheric circulation. The lesson should be preceded with an activity of the seasons such as “Seasons Interactive” simulation from SEPUP reviewed at A diagram on page 10 of the teacher’s guide of Earth’s location in relation to the sun shows a highly elliptical orbit and may cause misconceptions. It should be pointed out that the orbit only varies 1.7%.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use graphical displays (maps and graphs) to identify temporal and spatial relationships. Temporal and spatial relationships are addressed as students examine seasonal changes in both hemispheres.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Class discussion questions in the teacher’s guide address seasons and global surface temperature variations in January and July. Students also investigate regional differences in locations such as the Rockies and the Sahara and variations by latitude and altitude. Questions also address why incoming solar energy varies from surface temperature, which can be attributed to reflection of sunlight by clouds, water, and land surfaces. The term albedo is not used, but the teacher could introduce it. Group Problem-Solving activities address seasonal variations in incoming sunlight in the two hemispheres, and the differences in how land and water respond to sunlight. To address the portion of the Disciplinary Core Idea “affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns,” use the resources mentioned in the Performance Expectation.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students investigate the cause and effect relationship to predict and describe natural phenomena. They interpret maps of incoming solar radiation, average surface temperatures, and land and sea distributions to investigate the reason for seasonal changes in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The three dimensions intentionally work together to help students explain a phenomenon. Students are constructing explanations (Science and Engineering Practice) and examining the cause and effect relationship (Crosscutting Concept) between sunlight, the ocean and landforms (Disciplinary Core Idea). The phenomena of whether seasons are exactly opposite in the two hemispheres is addressed at the beginning of the lesson. The lesson suggests finding two locations such as their town and a corresponding location in the opposite hemisphere and compare their climates. The teacher’s guide refers to another Globe activity, which is available at The visualizations and questions support students in making sense of the phenomena with appropriate teacher support. Students return to the phenomenon/problem to add layers of explanation based on learning. It is clear to the student how their learning will help them to better explain the phenomena. The materials provide limited support for teachers to draw out connections to students’ prior experiences. This connection could be strengthened by returning to the two locations explored in the introduction to the lesson.

  • Instructional Supports: Materials clearly describe a logical progression from the expected prior learning through the learning targeted in the materials for the three dimensions. Students use the Science and Engineering Practice of analyzing data to investigate the Disciplinary Core Idea of influences on climate throughout the lesson. The Crosscutting Concept of cause and effect is addressed at the end of the lesson when students explain the causes of the phenomena. The questions on the student worksheet require elaborations of reasoning behind their answers and show how students’ reflective thinking evolves as they address the relationships in the visualizations. The lesson provides supports to teachers for eliciting student ideas, although the questions may need fleshing out and scaffolding. Classroom discourse is outlined in Step 1: Class Discussion with questions to focus student reasoning. Students explain their reasoning when they answer the questions in groups. Not all science ideas included in the materials are accurate. See the note in the Performance Expectation. The lesson does not provide differentiation strategies for students with differing skill levels.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The scenarios are based on specific, real-world data and require students to engage in grade-appropriate three-dimensional activities. All information is appropriate to the grade level. New information is presented as needed to keep the task sufficiently supported, engaging, and rigorous. Tasks routinely provide students with opportunities to make their thinking visible, including current understanding, gaps, and misconceptions. The teacher’s guide addresses the common misconception that Earth’s distance from the sun varies considerably and causes seasons. Each question requires students to use at least two of the dimensions in making sense of the data. All scenarios require sense-making using at least 2-dimensional performances. Rubrics are provided for each of the student questions. The lesson needs an additional assessment strategy completed individually by the students and not in groups to show individual mastery of the content. During Step 3. Class Discussion, the teacher may want to subject answers to reviews by their peers. An exit question could address the two locations chosen in the introduction to the activity and why their climates are different based on solar input and locations in relation to land and water. One of the science ideas is not scientifically accurate. The diagram on the second page of the student worksheet contains a diagram of Earth’s orbit around the sun that is highly elliptical. The teacher needs to draw an accurate diagram and provide an explanation showing an ellipticity of 1.7%. They can reference the article at

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: No technological interactivity is required for the lesson. The teacher and students can access the visualizations on the GLOBE website.