Sixth graders explored the phenomenon: Why is it colder at the poles and warmer at the equator? Students explored this question using mathematical applications and light/shadow. Teams conducted an experiment where they shone a flashlight on a globe and observed the change in light as they tilted the globe on it’s axis.
Question to Explore
Why is it colder at the poles and warmer at the equator?
- Globe (we used an inflatable one)
- If using inflatable globe, use a small Tupperware bin to keep it in place
- bin and masking tape to elevate flashlight and hold it in place
- Climate an Latitude Graphic Organizer
Globe and flashlight experiment
- Place your inflatable globe atop the Tupperware so it is standing upright
- Position your flashlight above your large bin and use masking tape to secure it. Make sure it is pointing at the center of the globe (the Equator)
- Notice the intensity and size of the flashlight circle on the globe. How much globe does it cover and how intense is the light?
- Keeping the flashlight position and distance from the globe the same, tilt the globe on it’s axis, so it points toward the top and then the bottom of the globe.
- What do you notice about the intensity and size of the flashlight circle on the globe now? Record your results.
Students recorded their observations, noting the amount and intensity of light at different angles. Sixth graders came to the conclusion that, due to the shape of the earth and the angle at which the sun’s rays hit it, the equator receives more direct and intense sunlight than the poles.
Here is a graphic organizer I created for students to record their observations.