ARTIC LIGHTS, ARTIC NIGHTS

A WebQuest for Grades 6-8 (Mathematics)

Designed by Kristy Dubert & Amy Suits

Introduction | Task | Sources | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion

Introduction

Imagine a day with only 3 hours and 43 minutes of daylight?  How would you get things accomplished?  What about a day with 21 hours and 49 minutes of daylight?  How would you sleep if it is always light?  If you lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, this would be a daily part of your life throughout the year.

Alaska is a large state.  The amount of sunlight, snow, and the temperature range has extreme variations.  If you lived in Barrow, the northernmost city, the summer would consist of 84 days of continuous sunlight, and the winter would consist of 67 days of no direct sunlight.  The more southern part of Alaska, such as Ketchikan or Juneau, does not experience this loss of, or continuous, sunlight.

Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska.  It is located 115 miles south of the Artic Circle.  In the summer, because the sun only falls a few degrees below the horizon, citizens experience constant light.  In the winter, citizens experience twilight allowing them to see outside during their loss of direct sunshine.  In this activity, students will explore mathematical ideas of time, temperature, and the earth's tilt.

NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, Standard 4, Measurement, grades 6-8:  Instructional programs should enable all students to understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement--

•         understand relationships among units and convert one unit to another within the same system.

NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, Standard 9, Connections, grades 6-8:  Instructional programs should enable all students to recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics.

You are interested in the difference in temperature and time between Fairbanks, Alaska and your place of residence.  Your job is to calculate these differences and provide an explanation for your results.  After completing this exercise, you should have a better understanding of the connection between time, temperature, and one's location on the earth.

Sources

Chaos Software Group, Inc. (2004). World time server. Retrieved November 5, 2004, from http://www.worldtimeserver.com/

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. (2004). Artic cam. Retrieved November 5, 2004, from http://www.arcticcam.com/cam.html

Perth Weather Center. (2004). World temperature extremes. Retrieved November 5, 2004, from http://members.iinet.net.au/~jacob/worldtp.html

The Ranch Motel. (2004). Fairbanks, Alaska information site. Retrieved November 5, 2004, from http://fairbanks-alaska.com/

Schneider. (2004). The earth's axis. Retrieved November 5, 2004, from http://www.boscobel.k12.wi.us/~schnrich/earth%27s_axis.htm

Schulp, C.  (2004). Temperature converter. Retrieved November 5, 2004, from http://www.albireo.ch/temperatureconverter/

Weather Savvy. (2004). What's the deal with the tilt of the earth? Retrieved November 5, 2004, from

Process

Now go to http://www.arcticcam.com/cam.html and get the current time in Fairbanks.  How much time difference is there between where you are and Fairbanks?

At http://www.worldtimeserver.com/, look up the current times for the Australian Capital Territory and Greece.  How much are the time differences between these two areas and Fairbanks?

Going back to the second website to find the current temperature in the city of Fairbanks.  Does the temperature correlate with the weather as seen in the ArticCam?  Do you notice any differences between there and where you live? (Hint: sunlight.)

Convert the temperature from Fahrenheit to degree Celsius by using the converter located at http://www.albireo.ch/temperatureconverter/.  What is the formula they used?

What has been the highest temperature recorded for Alaska?  The lowest temperature?  What are the extremes where you live?  To find out, go to http://members.iinet.net.au/~jacob/worldtp.html and record your findings in degree Celsius.  Convert to degrees Fahrenheit by using your formula.

Why do the temperature and times show such a variation between areas of the world?  This is all due to the earth's tilt on its axis.  Go to http://www.weathersavvy.com/Seasons2.html and http://www.boscobel.k12.wi.us/~schnrich/earth%27s_axis.htm to gain a better understanding and then answer the following questions:

• How much is the earth tilted off its perpendicular?  Off its horizontal?

• What if the earth had no tilt?  How would this affect us?

Evaluation

After the first step, the students should be able to, if asked, provide a brief overview of Fairbanks.

The time difference will differ depending on where the student lives.  In Chattanooga, TN, the time difference is 3 hours.

The time difference between Fairbanks and the Australian Capital Territory is 5 hours.  The difference between Greece and Fairbanks is 10 hours.

The temperature will vary depending on when the student performs this exercise.  An example of the temperature correlating with the weather, as seen in the ArticCam, would be that -7° F is suitable for snow covering the ground.  An example of the difference between there and Chattanooga, dealing with sunlight, would be that at 9:50 a.m. on November 9, 2004, there was only twilight in Fairbanks.  In Chattanooga, it would be daylight.

This will vary depending on the temperature at the time the student performs this exercise.  The formula is Fahrenheit = Celsius × (9/5) + 32.

The highest temperature recorded in Alaska is 37.8° C.  The lowest temperature recorded is -62.2° C.  The question dealing with where the student lives will vary.  For Tennessee, the highest temperature recorded is 45.0° C and the lowest is -35.6° C.  The highest temperature for Alaska, converted to Fahrenheit, is 100° F, and the lowest is -80° F.  For Tennessee, the highest is 113° F and the lowest is -32° F.

The earth is tilted 23.5 degrees off its perpendicular. If the earth had no tilt, we would have no seasons and nearly every place on earth would receive the same amount of sunlight energy each day, for each year, for the rest of eternity.

Conclusion

In this exercise, students explored time differences, temperature differences, and the earth's tilt.  Students should have a better understanding as to why we have seasons and variations of sunlight.  Students should also be able to convert between Fahrenheit and Celsius.  For further exploration, think about the following questions:

• What if the earth was tilted 40 degrees off its perpendicular?  How would this change the seasons?  What would change about direct sunlight on parts of the earth?

• Try exploring temperatures in other countries and compare your findings to your place of residence.

• How were the time zones developed?