Most students think that it is cold in the winter because the Sun is further away from the Earth

Earth and Space


Likewise, it is warmer in the summer because the Earth is closest to the Sun at that time. Of course, students don’t take into account the idea of summer occurring in other parts of the world during winter.

Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to address this

  • Why is it hotter in the summer than in the winter? (11-14)

    By far the most common response to explaining the seasons is in terms of distance from the Sun. This is based on the common-sense reasoning that if you go closer to a glowing source, then you become warmer.

    Unfortunately, it's on the wrong track! This resource explains why.

    View Resource


  • Illari, L. et al., () Exploiting Laboratory Experiments in the Teaching of Meteorology, Oceanography, and Climate, American Meteorological Society.

    Paper digest

  • Trumper, R., () A cross-age study of junior high school students'conceptions of basic astronomy concepts, International Journal of Science Education, 23 (11) 1111- 1123.

    Key paper digest

  • Philips, W., () Earth science misconceptions, The Science Teacher, 21.

    Paper digest

  • Cox, M., Steegen, A., and De Cock, M., () How Aware Are Teachers of Students’ Misconceptions in Astronomy? A Qualitative Analysis in Belgium, Science Education International, 27 (2) 277-300.

    Paper digest

  • Dunlop, J., () How children observe the universe, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 200 (17) 194-206.

    Paper digest

  • Osborne, J., Wadsworth, P., Black, P. and Meadows, J., () The earth in space: Primary space project research report, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

    Paper 1 and Paper 1

  • Barrier, R. M., () Astronomical Misconceptions, The Physics Teacher, 48, 319.

    Paper digest

  • Bogina, M.R. and Roberts, B.R. () The Use of Haiku and Portfolio Entry to Teach the Change of Seasons, Journal of Geoscience Education, 53 (5) 559.

    Paper digest

  • Sarioğlan, A. B. and Küçüközer, H., () From Elementary to University Students' Ideas About Causes of the Seasons, Journal of Turkish science education.

    Paper digest

  • Galano, S. et al., () Developing the use of visual representations to explain basic astronomy phenomena, Physical review physics education research, 14 (1) 010-145.

    Key paper digest

  • Lee, V. R., () How Different Variants of Orbit Diagrams Influence Student Explanations of the Seasons, Science Education, 94, 985–1007.

    Paper digest

  • G. Sharp, J., () Children's astronomical beliefs: a preliminary study of Year 6 children in south‐west England, International Journal of Science Education, 18 (6) 685-712.

    Key paper digest

  • Slater, E. V., Morris, J. E., & McKinnon, D., () Astronomy alternative conceptions in preadolescent students in Western Australia, International Journal of Science Education, 40 (17) 2158-2180.

  • Baxter, J., () Children's understanding of familiar astronomical events, International Journal of Science Education, 11 (5) 502-513.

    Paper digest

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