Equinox Family Fun
Your Home Base as Astronomical Calendar
Infuse a sense of earth and sky based wonder and awe in your kiddos by introducing this fun easy technique this equinox.
At the equinoxes, the sun rises at due East and sets at due West. This only happens at the equinoxes (as at the solstices the sun rises far north or south of east and follows a different path across the sky), so just twice a year, so it makes for a fun special family way to find and orient to the 4 directions!
Our ancestors lived in rhythmic tune to the seasons in a way many of us have lost in modern life. Using your home base as your sacred site brings us back to these ancient practices, in an updated modern way.
Chose Your Vantage Spot Wisely (remember, repeat, good access, long term steadiness)
You can turn this activity into creating a year long solar calendar, so chose your location wisely. It needs to be somewhere that you can remember and repeat (in all seasons). Pick a place that has an obvious place to stand For instance, we are using the corner of our deck, where we can stand with our back right up against a wall so we have a place holder for repeating this in June, September and December.
You can choose sunrise or sunset, depending on your family schedule. The days leading up to equinox and just after equinox are “close enough”, so give your team some flexibility in case of evening plans or cloud cover.
Take note of the spot the sun sets (or rises) on the horizon. Use a landmark (like a tree or a signpost or a neighboring building). You can snap a picture, you could also make a drawing. If you have the space and inclination you could stack some stones or place a marker. Leave space in your mind for being able to repeat this in June, when the sun will rise or set considerably “right or left”, or more accurately north or south, of this due West/East equinox mark.
My kids have had a lot of fun tracking the sun set position from our yard. It is a tangible hands on way to learn earth sky science and explore the wonders of the seasonal changes we experience here on earth.
Finding the 4 Directions
Now that the SUN has shown you due west (or east if you did sunrise), orient yourself to the four directions. Stand with your right hand facing east, your belly button and nose facing north, your left hand/arm facing west and the back of your body facing west. Take note of the directions from your child’s bed or bedroom or favorite place to play. You could mark the walls or draw pictures to go with the directions. You can chat about what each direction feels like (like the north feels coolest and south is so warm and sunny). There are loads of references to what ancient cultures used as symbols or colors for the 4 directions.
I find it fun myself to let the kids find their own answers to these questions inside, but it is all personal preference, so you could chose to do a bit of research and direct some of the conversation. It all really depends on your kids, their interests and proclivities, and ages. I have one kid who makes big poster board charts and got up for 4 days before and after equinox to chart the exact times and locations of sunrise and sunset and sun position at noon time and was very scientific and exacting about it. I have another kid who just might chose this year to do an interpretive sun dance and draw a lovely picture for each direction. Be free, have fun, follow the kids leads and we would love to hear how this goes for your family!
Here are our favorite 3 books on the subject:
Sunshine Makes the Seasons by Franklyn M. Branley & illustrated by Michael Rex
What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn M. Branley & illustrated by Arthur Dorros
The Shortest Day by Wendy Pfeffer & illustrated by Jesse Reisch
(and here is a you tube video of a mom reading the book What Makes Day and Night out loud https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2y69y4pcN0 for instant access to this book)