The winter solstice marks the two times the sun’s path is the farthest south in the Northern Hemisphere (late December) and the farthest north in the Southern Hemisphere (late June). In other words, it’s the shortest day and the longest night of the year! The winter solstice has inspired celebrations and rituals worldwide since the beginning of time. While different cultures celebrate in different ways, they all welcome the “sun’s rebirth” and the return of the light.
With the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere almost upon us, it’s the perfect time to bring light and warmth into the school day. Here are five ways to incorporate the winter solstice into the classroom. (For even more ideas, check out our blog about 10 Tips on Celebrating Cultural Diversity in the Classroom this Winter Season.)
1. Countdown Calendar
Create a calendar to countdown to the winter solstice. Each day, the students can keep track of the time of the sunrise and sunset, noting how the amount of sunlight decreases and the days get shorter. In addition, they can keep track of where the sun is on the horizon at a specific time of day.
2. Get Crafty
To celebrate the return of the sun, make winter solstice lanterns. These lanterns are easy to assemble, and most of the items needed are already on hand. For example, hole punch a plastic cup and add an electric candle, or decorate a mason jar and fill it with a string of lights.
Another idea is to trim an outdoor tree with edible decorations to feed the local wildlife. Make seed ornaments, popcorn garlands, hang fresh apples, and more. It’s also fun for the children to look outside and see different types of birds and critters enjoying their treats! For more ideas, check out the Farmer’s Almanac.
3. Create A Word Wall
Have the students identify the words related to the winter solstice, such as equinox, solstice, equator, hemisphere, orbit, and so on. Then, the students can add the terms to a word wall, and the class can work together to define each new word. Repeated exposure to these words benefits all the students, especially the English language learners in the classroom. Finally, ask the bilingual students to write the words in their home language to make the exercise even more fun.
4. Invent A One-of-A-Kind Solstice Celebration
Engage the class in planning a unique winter solstice celebration for the classroom. Ask the students to research different winter solstice traditions from around the world. Then, combine some of those elements with special customs from their own winter celebrations to create this unique event. Give it a fun name, decorate the classroom, enjoy different foods from around the world, and play games.
5. Enjoy a Book
There are a lot of great books to choose from when teaching children about the winter solstice. The book can be scientific, a heart-warming story, or even a traditional folktale. After reading the book, have the students write a journal entry about the part of the story they liked best or one new fact they learned. They can also take this time to set intentions for the coming year in their journal.
Image from Fresh As A Daisy: Nature Idioms by Diane Costa, Illustrated by Maria Russo
Please share with us how you celebrated the Winter Solstice!