Winter Background Information for Teachers and Parents
This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about winter. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Winter. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.
Learning about seasons and weather helps children understand the natural world around us. This movie will teach children about winter weather, and how people, plants, and animals adapt to survive this season. Invite children to share their experiences with weather and seasons, and then build on their knowledge to teach how and why seasons and weather change. We recommend screening Seasons before watching other movies on specific seasons to provide a general overview and to review basic science concepts. The Winter movie goes more in depth about the season and explains how Earth’s axis and orbit around the Sun causes seasons to change. It also discusses how seasons influence a few key weather conditions, such as rain, snow, and sleet, and explores how there are fewer hours of daylight in the winter.
Have children discuss what winter is like in your area. Have they ever experienced any big winter storms? What happened? You may want to use a thermometer to measure outdoor temperatures during the winter and throughout other seasons. This provides a great practice for children to use a thermometer and collect data. We recommend exploring the Temperature movie for review or extension. Explain that in many areas, winter is the coldest season of the year. What kind of weather occurs during winter? Review with children that precipitation is water that falls to Earth from the sky. Snow and rain are both kinds of precipitation. Sleet occurs when snowflakes melt and freeze as they fall to Earth. Sleet looks like little ice pellets. Some places, such as Florida, rarely have snow during the year. Invite children to name other places where it rarely snows. It may be helpful to chart those places on a map or globe to notice that many of those places are close to the Equator. You can also go online and compare the temperature in these places to the temperature in your community.
Review with children that it takes about a year for Earth to orbit the Sun, and that Earth is tilted on an axis. Using a globe or ball to illustrate the movement, show students how Earth’s axis and orbit around the Sun causes seasons to change during the year. In winter, our part of Earth is tilted away from the Sun and in summer, our part of Earth is tilted toward the Sun. Show children that the Equator is an imaginary line that goes around the middle of Earth. The countries near the Equator do not tilt toward or away from the Sun that much throughout the year, so the weather is consistently warm and mostly sunny. The half of Earth above the Equator is called the northern hemisphere. The half of Earth below the Equator is called the southern hemisphere. When the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun, the southern hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun. This means that when it is winter in the northern hemisphere, it is summer in the southern hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere, winter begins at the winter solstice (in December) and ends at the spring equinox (in March). In the southern hemisphere, winter is in June, July, and August.
Discuss how animals might survive cold, snowy winters. You may want to screen the Hibernation movie to learn more. During winter, many animals hibernate, or fall into a deep sleep, to survive the cold weather. Many people think bears hibernate, but they actually go into torpor. When the temperature goes up on warm days, bears wake up and feed. Then they sleep again when the weather gets colder. Other animals migrate, or move to another place for the winter. Many animals grow thick layers of fat or thick fur to help them survive colder weather. Some animals have fur that changes color in the winter, allowing them to blend in with the snow and be less vulnerable to predators. Encourage children to come up with other ways animals survive the winter.
Learning about seasons and why they change helps children connect their own experiences to more abstract science concepts. In addition to screening the movies in the Weather unit, we recommend using plenty of maps and models of the solar system to help children understand Earth’s orbit, axis, and the changing seasons.