A student uses the globe to describe day and night.

Earth’s Rotation Causes Day and Night – Interactive model

In this activity, students with visual impairments model day and night using a globe specially marked to indicate the students' current location on Earth.

This activity occurred to me as I was using globes for my students to teach space science concepts.  Some of the globes I had borrowed from our history teacher were marked with a tactile dot on our state (Texas).  This prompted me to utilize this fact in our lesson. 

Related Vocabulary:

axis: the line about which a rotating body like the Earth turns.

rotation: the spin of a body on its axis

day:  the time required for Earth to rotate once on its axis




  1. Describe the wind produced by the fan as the Sun’s rays.
  2. Direct the student to find the tactile dot representing current location.
  3. Set the fan blowing toward the student.  
  4. Ask the student to begin showing how the Earth rotates.  (Make sure she rotates the Earth counter-clockwise.)
  5. As the student is rotating the Earth, have her stop at random times and ask whether it is day or night.
  6. Discuss day and night.  Ask:  “Why is it day when the Sun’s rays are reaching our side of the Earth?”
  7. After the student is confident about the connection between the rotation of the Earth and day and night, ask her how long it takes for the Earth to rotate once on its axis.  (24 hours)
  8. Proceed by having the student count off the hours from 1 to 24 as she rotates the Earth several times.


Review the terms axis, rotation, and day.  Please see definitions in the Description Section. 


If a globe is not available, a blown-up spherical balloon will work. 

NGSS Standards

1st Grade – Space Systems, Patterns and Cycles

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

Seasonal patterns of sunrise and sunset can be observed, described, and predicted. (1-ESS1-2)

MIddle School – Space Systems

ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

Many thanks to Scott Addison for his collaboration on this activity.

By Laura Hospitál

Collage of earth rotation causes day and night

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