Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring equinox in school

Porto, Portugal
photo: unknow

When daisies pied and violets blue
   And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
   Do paint the meadows with delight, (...)

William Shakespeare, Spring

Hello ! I am very happy ! Today 20 March, is the first day of Spring 2014. Also known as the vernal equinox. So this year, the 20 March is the first day of spring.

During an equinox, the Earth’s north and south poles are not tilted toward or away from the sun. This phenomena occurs twice a year: on 20 March and on 22 September.


Stonehenge one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe, will be open from the start of the equinox at 5:45am until 8:30am, to allow Druids and Pagans to gather and see the sun rise above the ancient stones.

Druids and Pagans will celebrate the ancient Saxon goddess Eostre, who symbolises fertility and new beginnings.

photo: Google doodle

Of course Google could not forget to celebrate the 1st day of spring with one of its famous doodles. I love doodles, you know that ! They are creative and motivate students to get more information about a new subject.

This spring doodle shows a charming little blobman watering a handful of lovely flowers. 

20 March is the spring equinox which, in the astronomical system of seasons, is the first day of spring.

The date the spring and autumn equinoxes fall each year - the days are the ones when day and night are roughly the same length - fluctuates because of the Earth’s orbit around the sun.
When we talk about the beginning of spring or any other season, we are usually talking about the day in our calendars that mark this date. 
This refers to the astronomical seasons which are a result of the Earth's axis and orbit around the sun.
There is a difference between astronomical seasons and meteorological seasons.
  • Astronomical seasons refer to the position of Earth's orbit in relation to the sun taking into account equinoxes and solstices. 
  • Meteorological seasons are instead based on the annual temperature cycle and measure the meteorological state as well as coinciding with the calendar to determine a clear transition between the seasons.
Since the astronomical seasons vary in length, the start date of a new season can fall on different days each year. 
This makes it difficult to compare seasons between different years and resulted in the introduction of the meteorological calendar. 
This splits the calendar into four seasons of approximately the same length. The astronomical seasons run approximately three weeks later than those of the meteorological calendar.
But let's read NASA explanations about equinoxes:

Every year, there are two equinoxes. One is in March; the other is in September. 

In 2014, the March equinox falls on March 20, 2014. On the equinoxes, the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal. 

Seasons are opposite on either side of the equator, so the March equinox is called the spring (or vernal) equinox in the northern hemisphere. But in the southern hemisphere, it's known as the fall (autumnal) equinox. 

The images show how sunlight fell on the Earth on December 21, 2010 (upper left), and March 20 (upper right), June 21 (lower left), and September 20, 2011 (lower right). Each image was taken at 6:12 a.m. local time. Notice how on March 20 and September 20, the terminator — the divide between day and night — is a straight north-south line, and the Sun is said to sit directly above the equator. 

Equinox means "equal night" in Latin, capturing the idea that daytime and nighttime are equal lengths everywhere on the planet.

NASA images and animation by Robert Simmon, using data ©2010 EUMETSAT. Caption by Mike Carlowicz

Students can read 
more about the equinoxes and solstices at NASA Observatory.


Do you need more interesting facts to share with your students ? Spring time, equinoxes, or traditions? 

Students may do some research about the several themes around Spring time. Of course, the most important is science, but literature can be very interesting if you look for Celtic Literature.

Curricula: Sciences; Languages

Level : Primary; Secondary Education.

Teachers must adapt the activities to every level they are teaching.

Wishing all a Happy Spring!


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