This lesson is designed for middle school students with no previous knowledge of astronomy or the history of astronomy. I often prepare my images as a slideshow or printed, large size images for students to understand the story of the scientists behind the science we are studying. This lesson should take approximately fifteen minutes, allowing time for students to begin their "Seasons Lab" at the end.

Group Size:


Learning Objectives:

  • Define rotation
  • Define revolution
  • Explain the difference between rotation and revolution
  • Know the tilt of planet Earth

Guiding Question:

Why was the Scientific Revolution important and how did it contribute to progress?


Images depicting rotation and revolution of Earth around the Sun. I also like to have an Earth model (a globe, a styrofoam ball on a stick, etc.) to demonstrate rotation, revolution and tilt.

Additional resources:



[Note: This lesson in its entirety with images can be found as an attached pdf and doc file]

Lesson Summary:

  • Describe the rotation of Earth
  • Describe the revolution of Earth
  • Explain the difference between rotation and revolution
  • Introduce the tilt of the planet and ask leading questions about seasons

Lesson: Motion of earth in the solar system

Ancient astronomers studied the movements of the Sun and Moon as they appeared to travel across the sky. It seemed to them as though the Earth was standing still and the sun and moon were moving. Actually, the Sun and moon seem to move across the sky each day because of the Earth’s rotation on its axis. Earth also moves around the sun. Earth moves through the solar system in two ways: rotation and revolution.

The imaginary line that passes through earth’s center and North and South poles is Earth’s axis. The spinning of Earth on its axis is called a rotation. Earth’s rotation causes day and night. As Earth rotates eastward, the sun appears to move westward across the sky. It is day on the side of the Earth facing the sun. As the Earth continues to turn to the east, the sun appears to set in the west. Sunlight can’t reach the side of the Earth facing away from the sun, so it is night there. It takes about 24 hours for the Earth to rotate once on it’s axis.

A revolution is the movement of one object around another. The Earth completes a full revolution around the sun once a year. The earth follows a path, or orbit, as it revolves around the sun. The Earth’s orbit is not quite circular. Do you remember what shape it is?

The Seasons

Most places outside of the tropics and the poles have four distinct seasons. What causes these seasons, why is it generally warmer near the equator, and why are there big temperature differences from place to place?

[Have students make some guesses/brainstorm some hypotheses together. This is a great introduction to their Seasons Lab]


At the end of this lesson, students are asked to complete the Seasons Lab.

The assessment can be found as a separate wiki page here, where there is also a pdf and doc version available for download.

Attached Files:

Movement of Earth in the Solar System Lesson (pdf)

Movement of Earth in the Solar System Lesson (doc)



Rotation and Revolution

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