Countdown to Mystery Class: Four Months to Go!

Autumn began in the Northern Hemisphere last week. It's a great time to explore the relationship between sunlight and seasonal change as you "countdown" the months before Mystery Class begins in January.

This Week's Update Includes:


Image of the Month

Nebraska Astronomy Applet Project
Explore the
Season Simulator

How Can I Prepare Students for Mystery Class?

1. Track Changes in Daylight
Photoperiod is the length of time between sunrise and sunset. As a class, record daily sunrise and sunset times. Have students calculate photoperiod.

2. Share and Compare
On the first day of each month, and on each equinox and solstice, report your photoperiod data to the Sunlight and the Seasons map.

Report Any Time for These Dates
It's fine to submit your report any time! Just be sure to report the photoperiod for these dates:

  • Equinox (September 23)
  • October 1
  • November 1
  • December 1
  • Solstice (December 22)
  • February 1
  • March 1
  • Equinox (March 20)
  • April 1
  • May 1
  • June 1
  • Solstice (June 20)


Report to the Map

Sunlight and the Seasons: Map of Day Length around the Globe
Sunlight and the Seasons
Explore Changes in Day Length

Ask questions to help students analyze photoperiod data and make discoveries about sunlight and seasonal change.

3. Observe and Wonder
Help students build background knowledge and skills by simply observing the seasonal changes that are taking place all around them. Have them pay attention to the position of the sun in the sky at different times of the day. Ask questions that spark their curiosity as they sketch what they see.

4. Propose Possible Explanations
Based on the observations made and data collected, encourage students to ask questions and write about what is happening and why. How do students explain the changes in day length? Their explanations will reveal what they know and what they are ready to discover about the relationship between sunlight and seasonal change. Keep a list of questions and proposed explanations to spark inquiry, discussion, and research. Here are some BIG questions to help you get started:

  • What causes day and night?
  • Why are the seasons changing now?
  • What is the connection between sunlight and seasons?

5. Explore the Season Simulator
Introduce the Season Simulator by simply exploring the features and functions of this valuable learning tool. Watch and listen as students discover how to move different parts and run the animation. Their responses and questions will reveal where to begin with more guided discovery. For a little challenge, have students set the date bar at the bottom of the simulator to the time of the fall equinox in North America (September 23). Ask questions that encourage students to describe what they see.

Just for Teachers: Practice Packets #1 and #2
Prepare yourself for Mystery Class by downloading two Practice Packets:

Exploring Latitude Clues

About Practice Packet #1
Exploring Latitude Clues

Exploring Latitude Clues

About Practice Packet #2
Exploring Longitude Clues

The Next Countdown to Mystery Class will be posted November 1, 2011