Studying Summer Solstice in a Montessori Primary Classroom
The official welcoming of summer and the longest day of the year, the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere takes place on June 21st. For students who attend school year round, this holiday offers the perfect opportunity to celebrate the beginning of summer and study the relationship between the Earth and the Sun during this special time of year.
What is the summer solstice?
The word solstice comes from the Latin words sol meaning sun and sistere meaning to stand still. During the winter and summer solstices, it appears from the Earth that the sun stops moving and then reverses its path. The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun. This is when the North Pole is tilted closest to the sun making it the longest day (most hours of daylight) for those living in the northern hemisphere. It is also the day when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky.
Spiritually, the summer solstice is a time when people often celebrate the cycle of the year, honoring the movement and energy of the earth. Common themes reflected during observances of the summer solstice include:
- Light, heat, fire, and sun representing the amount of sunlight
- Flowers and greenery representing the Earth in full bloom
- Yoga representing stretching into the long day
Montessori Classroom Activities
- Come together for a circle time singing, dancing, drumming, and celebrating.
- Create a sun wheel or mandala (a symbol of the circle of life and connectedness) using flowers and other items found on a nature walk.
- Demonstrate the summer solstice using a globe and a flashlight. Show how certain areas receive lots of sunlight in the summer (including Antarctica, where it doesn’t set at all!).
- Show pictures of interesting scenery the summer season creates in places such as Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flat.
- Talk about meteor showers and encourage your students to ask their parents to watch one!
- Learn about crickets and how they chirp more when it is hotter. Play a recording of a cricket chirping and explain how to tell the temperature by counting their chirps.
- Cook some cold noodles and enjoy a meal together, discussing how people in China eat cold noodle dishes to “reduce stomach heat” during this time of year.
- Do a circle time yoga session focusing on a sun salutation since this is also the International Day of Yoga and New York City and India celebrate with mass yoga sessions.
- Go outside and measure students’ shadows at noon on each solstice day and compare them to determine when their shadow was the shortest and the longest.
- Make a solar oven and create a food to share using the sun’s bright light. Some popular options include sun s’mores, sun-dried tomatoes, and sun tea.
- Perform the summer solstice crystal ritual at a circle time.
- Create a sundial.
- Make flower crowns.
- Make sun prints.
- Go wildflower picking.
- Introduce smelling jars using natural herbs and local wildflowers.
Montessori Classroom Materials
- Seasons wheel
- Perpetual calendar with seasons
- Moon phases, full moon, wiccan wheel of the year
- Wheel of the year
- Celebration sun
- Seasons three-part cards (included with our seasons wheel listed above)
- Wiccan festivals three-part cards (included with our wheel of the year works listed above)
- National Geographic - What is the Summer Solstice?
- National Geographic Kids - 5 Reasons Why Summer is Cool
- Scholastic - First Day of Summer Activities for Kids
- Britannica Kids - Solstice
About the Author
Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori parent coach, a Montessori in-home teacher and nanny, a Montessori educational consultant for the Andrew’s Educational Institute, a Montessori educator for adult learners, and a manager & content creator for Guide & Grow. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a School Psychologist intern. She is AMS credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I) and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.