To say that the Summer Solstice came in with a bang would be an understatement. The official start of the summer season began on June, 20, 2016 at 6:34 pm EDT. I had hoped to ship the kids outside at that precise moment to dance in the warmth of the sun and celebrate the ‘extra’ daylight as we welcomed summer to Ontario. But Mother Nature had different plans.
As 6:34 pm approached so did the gray, stormy skies along with the rumpling of thunder. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch was upgraded to a Severe Thunderstorm Warning by Environment Canada and the radar agreed.
Maybe it will pass, I thought to myself, but then a Tornado Warning was issued and the alerts on my phone were telling everyone in our area to take cover immediately.
Facebook and Twitter were flooded with people describing the ‘swirling’ clouds they could see from their homes. We prepared to enter our crawlspace, which was an adventure in itself.
So much for 6:34 pm.
This year also marked the first time since 1948 that a full moon would be in full glow on the day of the Summer Solstice. A Strawberry Moon. Again, cloudy, stormy skies didn’t allow for this viewing (which was OK given my kids really needed to go to bed, especially after this evening’s events).
Before all this drama began, we had recreated the summer solstice in our kitchen. Thanks to a blue ball, a lamp and a sharpie. So we would know exactly what was happening at 6:34 pm (sigh).
Not owning an actual globe, we took a blue dollar store ball and drew all the continents (my poor art skills included) and marked where the north and south poles were located.
This was our EARTH. We turned our lamp into our SUN.
I was surprised how much my kids already knew about earth. They already knew that earth spins on an axial tilt. The earth’s spin axis is tilted 23.5º. They knew that it takes one full day for the earth to rotate one complete time and that’s why we have day and night each day.
And they knew that it takes one whole year for the earth to circle around the sun.
But they didn’t know why we get summer and why we get winter.
Holding onto our ‘earth’ we looked at how it is positioned around the sun in both summer and winter (maintaining that important ’tilt’). I asked “who is getting all the warm sun? The people in the north (northern hemisphere) or the people in the south (southern hemisphere)?
Because earth is slightly tilted, in the summer time, the northern hemisphere is getting lots of the direct energy from the sun. And on the day of the summer solstice, we are positioned perfectly to get the most sun time. And that’s why it becomes really difficult to convince your kids that it’s bedtime even though the sun is still very much awake.
In the winter time, the southern hemisphere is better positioned for the sun to shine on them. So it’s their summer, and our winter. And during our winter, up in Canada, our daylight hours almost feel non-existent.
Despite the drama of this year’s Summer Solstice, it will be one we won’t forget. And at 6:34 pm the next day, we celebrated the Summer Solstice + 1!