Earth's Rotation Causes Day and Night - Interactive model

By Laura Hospitál on Feb 17, 2016

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


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


  • Mark an APH globe for each student with a tactile dot indicating your location. NOTE: If a globe is not available, a blown-up spherical balloon will work. 
  • Set up the fan in a relatively clear part of the room.


  • An APH Tactile and Visual Globe for each student:
  • Tactile dots (See link) or a piece of cut velcro tape or other tactile marker
  • Fan - As in several other activities, the wind produced by the fan will represent the Sun's rays.  This continuity should help students relate the wind and the Sun's rays as we discuss space science. 



  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
  • Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models. (MS-ESS1-1)
  • Earth and its solar system are part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of many galaxies in the universe. (MS-ESS1-2)
ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them. (MS-ESS1-2), (MS-ESS1-3)

Collage of earth's rotation


Read more about: Earth & Space Science, Science, STEM