Earth: Rotation vs. Revolution

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11735

Do you know you are moving all the time, even when you're standing still or sleeping? That's because the earth is moving with you on it! Learn about day and night and seasons with a video and project!


Earth Science, Space Science and Astronomy

learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Do you like carnival rides? Did you know the earth is like one huge ride?

The Earth is constantly moving, and in two very different ways.

The Earth rotates, or spins, at a speed of one thousand miles per hour! The Earth spins on its axis. Think of the Earth's axis as an imaginary pole that goes through the Earth — like a wheel on a toy car. You can spin the wheel, and make it go very quickly, but it doesn't come off the car. That's how the Earth works on its axis. The Earth's axis keeps it spinning in place, at a constant speed and in one direction.

Even though the Earth is moving fast, people cannot feel it because they are moving along with the Earth. The Earth spins counter-clockwise (like a clock spinning backwards) from the west to the east. Now, ask your parent or teacher to be the axis and place a finger on top of your head, and spin you counter-clockwise at a steady pace. Now you are rotating, just like Earth!

Earth spinning on a finger

There are twenty four hours in a day. It takes the Earth twenty four hours to complete a full rotation. This rotation causes day and night. As the Earth rotates, one side of the world is closer to the sun, while the other side of the world is further away from the sun. When one side of the Earth faces the sun, it is day in that location. The opposite side of the Earth is in the dark because it is facing away from the sun. Think about where you are on the Earth. If you are in North America or South America and it is day time, it is now night time for people who live on the opposite side of the Earth.

sun's rays on Earth

The Earth is always rotating (spinning). It continues to spin even when it is revolving around the sun. Revolving is like taking a slow walk in a big circle. The Earth revolves around the sun. It takes the Earth three hundred and sixty five days, or one year, to make one trip, or revolution, around the sun.

  1. Now try to act like to Earth revolving around the sun while rotating.
  2. Find a big open area, so you don't fall and get hurt.
  3. Find a small object to put in the center of your area to represent the sun.
  4. Stand a few steps away from the sun and have your parent or teacher help you rotate again by acting as your axis. Once you have a good rotation going, slowly start to walk in big, wide circles around the sun. Can you rotate and revolve at the same time?

Try it again with a ball. This time, you be the axis and you keep the ball (Earth) rotating in place while you walk (or revolve) like Earth around the sun. Was that a little easier? Did that help you understand how the Earth moves?

To help you understand the concepts of day and night, ask your parent or teacher to place — or stand with — a flash light in the center to serve as the light of the sun. Do this with your parent or teacher a number of times until you understand the concept of how day and night are affected by the way the Earth moves in relation to the sun.

sun on rotating Earth

The Earth's revolution causes the seasons to change. In many parts of the world, people see changes in plants, temperatures, and even the weather. The Earth's movement around the sun affects how much sun an area of the Earth gets. The amount of sun in an area affects the plants, temperatures, and weather. Tell your parent or teacher what changes you notice throughout the year. Does the weather change? Does it get hotter or cooler? Do the trees change? Share your answers.

four seasons

Are you amazed learning about the Earth's rotation and revolution? Before moving on to the Got It? section, tell your parent or teacher how long it takes the Earth to rotate around the sun.

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