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Climates & People


Essential Purpose

This module will provide an opportunity for students to understand and be able to explain why the global circulation system, latitude, and elevation affect climate and the consequences for people living in various places. Climates of regions and local places are important to the people who live there and the activities they pursue. There are numerous examples of activities that are located in particular climates, such as theme parks in the subtropical climates of Florida and ski resorts in the mountain climate of Colorado.

Climate, and the associated patterns of daily weather that reflect the longer-term climate of a place, comprise an important part of Earth’s Physical System.

National Geography Standards

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY STANDARD 7: The Physical Processes that shape the patterns of Earth’s surface.

MIDDLE SCHOOL STANDARD: Analyze physical patterns in terms of the processes that created them.

Benchmark: Construct and analyze climate graphs for selected places and suggest reasons for similarities and differences in climates.

State/Local Standards

States should align these modules to their own state/local standards as appropriate.

Essential Questions

  1. What is the difference between weather and climate?
  2. What are the effects of latitude on climate?
  3. How does climate influence the activities of people?

Essential Content

  • climate
  • climate regions
  • weather
  • latitude
  • earth-sun relationship

Essential Skills

Standards in Geographical Thinking:

Asking Geographic questions

  • Observing and formulating questions about the weather and climate where they live and in other places

Analyzing Geographic Information

  • Using diagrams, graphs, and maps to analyze information about climate

Summative Assessment

This summative assessment and scoring guide should be reviewed with students prior to using the activities in the module. Students should do the assessment after the activities have been completed.

Essential Questions Addressed by the Summative Assessment

  1. What are the effects of latitude on climate?
  2. How does climate influence the activities of people?

Printable Student View

Prior Knowledge
Criteria for an Exemplary Response

Now that you have learned how latitude and the effects of the more direct rays of sunshine during the seasons of the year are important in forming climatic regions, you are ready to apply that knowledge to explain climatic patterns

The Earth is in an orbit that is nearly circular around the Sun. It takes a year for the Earth to complete one orbit. In March and September the Sun’s heat and light rays strike the equator directly and are not inclined at an angle. This is why it is so hot in countries near the equator. At the North and South Poles, the rays from the Sun skim across the Earth at a very small angle; hardly any heat hits the Earth in these regions and that is why the Arctic and Antarctic regions are so cold. The N-S axis of the Earth is inclined at an angle of about 23 degrees to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. This means that there are a few months of the year when the North Pole is inclined towards the Sun. The Sun shines down on the northern Earth for many hours of the day and it is summer. Of course, the southern Earth is facing away from the Sun and it is winter there It is very difficult for young people to understand these ideas as they try to imagine why it gets so cold in winter and so hot in summer. When you tell them that the sun is actually closer to the earth in winter then it is in summer, they are even more confused

You work at the science center in your city. You are expecting an elementary school group to visit the center and you know they are interested in why we have four seasons.

Create models of Earth-Sun relationships to use with these students to show the importance of latitude on the Earth’s climate regions. Show correct Earth-Sun relationships and the effects of more direct sunlight on the surface of Earth. Be sure your models are simple enough to appeal to elementary students, but detailed enough to be accurate. Prepare notes to go with the presentation of your models to answer the following questions:


  • What is the relationship of the Earth to the Sun at the spring and fall equinox and the summer and winter solstice?
  • Where will the most direct sunlight reach the Earth during the year?
  • What is the relationship between latitude, climate, and temperature?
  • What are some examples of how climate influences the activities of people?

Make your presentation to the group of students visiting the Science Center (your class).

Scoring Guide