Happy Equinox

autumn equator equinox hemisphere spring Feb 26, 2023

March 20th marks the spring equinox for the Northern Hemisphere and the autumn equinox for the Southern Hemisphere. Take this opportunity to study the term “equal”, the rotation and orbit of the Earth, and seasons.

At either equinox, the sun is most directly facing the equator, causing day and night along the line to be equal. Present the concept of “equal” to children in a way that matters to them, such as snacks. Select a snack that is easy to distribute and count, like crackers. Give each child a plate. Explain that they will not be eating the snack until after the demonstration. Pass out crackers randomly so that each child has more or less than their neighbor. Allow children to react and point out the differences between each portion. Acknowledge their observations by saying, “Everyone has an unequal amount of crackers.” Then explain that you are going to make the amount that everyone has equal. Take away all but one cracker from each child and explicitly state, “Now everyone has an equal amount.” You could stop here and let everyone eat, or divide children into pairs or small groups, give them enough crackers to be divided equally and let them work together until everyone has an equal amount.

The sun is most directly facing the equator during each equinox because of the tilt of the Earth on its axis. Use a kebab skewer and a styrofoam ball to demonstrate an axis. The skewer is the axis. Stick the ball onto the skewer and twist the ball around to show how a sphere rotates on its axis. Tell children that the Earth spins on an axis. The Earth’s axis is an imaginary line that runs from the north pole to the south pole. You can mark the poles on your ball with a marker. Twist the ball around the skewer one time to demonstrate one day. Set, hold, or hang a ball where you can move around it, to represent the sun. Rotate your ball on the skewer as you move around the sun, explaining that the Earth completes 365 rotations or days as it travels around the sun one time. Draw a line around the ball, perpendicular to the skewer, to represent the equator. Show children how the Northern Hemisphere is equal to the Southern Hemisphere. Hold the skewer and ball so that the north pole is tilted away from the sun and the equator is facing the sun. This is how the Earth is tilted when it is the Spring Equinox in the north and Autumnal Equinox in the south. Tilt the skewer and ball so that the south pole is further from the sun to show the northern autumn equinox and southern spring equinox. 

Celebrate the spring and autumn seasons in ways that correlate. This way you can relate back to the previous equinox later in the year. For example, spring is the beginning and fall is the ending. Spring is morning and fall is evening. Leaves bud in spring and fall in autumn. Days are beginning to grow longer in spring and shorter in autumn. Days are growing warmer in spring and colder in fall. Animals are coming out in the spring and retreating in autumn. Relate it to your region too. For example, monarch butterflies are laying eggs in autumn and those eggs are hatching in spring. Snow melt is causing rivers to run faster in spring and slower in autumn.

Finally, the equinoxes create beautiful opportunities to write in your My Mindful Journal. As each new season unfolds we can reflect on what we noticed and enjoyed about the previous season and what we are looking forward to in the next. Refer to the Mother Mandala and Focal Points Posters to help children visualize the inward outward cycle that is Earth’s nature. All of these resources can be found in the Preschool Educator Resources.