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Summer Solstice

This week...SUMMER SOLSTICE and BIG WILDLIFE WEEKEND...along with some Shadow activities to have a go at.

For those of you in Y2.. do you remember the winter solstice, and what it is and what we did? (hint.. we made ivy crowns and wreaths to take home)

This time it is the opposite…

This year it falls on Saturday, June 20. This day officially marks the first day of summer…but is known as mid summers eve as some people say that summer starts on 1st May and ends on 1st August. Given the had the hottest May on record this year, we could easily say that it was summer and not Spring! What do you think? How do you think the seasons fall?

In the UK we will enjoy 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight on Saturday. The sun will rise at 4.43am and set at 9.21pm, and interestingly, our day and night will be at almost equal length.

There are lots of things people do to celebrate the Summer Solstice. There are many pagan stories about the sun god and how it was its most powerful on this day, and in ancient times the summer solstice celebrated as a fire festival as it was believed that burning bales strengthened the sun.

In the UK, many people travel to Stonehenge to watch the sun rise and set on this day - there are many theories on why the stone circle was constructed, but some believe that the stones were built to showcase the solstices, with the sun setting perfectly through heel stone and shining into the centre of the circle.

Fires were also used to drive out evil and to bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Blazing gorse or furze was carried around cattle to prevent disease and misfortune; while people would dance around the balefires or leap through the flames as a purifying or strengthening rite.

I don’t encourage you to do any jumping through fires, but if you like to have fires at home then you could sit around and sing songs, think about what you are thankful for… and take part in the Wildlife Trusts Big Wild Weekend, which includes Solstice Camp-out on Saturday AND a big wildlife Quiz on Sunday.

Last year at Forest School we made bundles of herbs* and included a note of thanks and a wish for the next year, and then placed them on the fire. We took some time to think about what were are grateful for, particularly the natural world around us that has given us so much pleasure during lockdown.

*healing herbs are said to be at their most powerful and are a great offering to the sun god

Other fun stories around the solstice include those of fairies. Midsummer’s eve was believed to be a time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, and when fairies were though to be at their most powerful. Have a look at the post I did on Elder before hand term… the elder Queen and King are said to be most easy to spot on this night!

SO, THE SCIENCE BIT… what does this all mean really? Why does it all happen?

Many of you know that the Earth travels around the sun. One whole rotation takes a year.

At the same time, the earth is spinning itself… one whole turn is 24 hours.

But, the earth is on a tilt (23 degrees) and so it means that at different times of the day and the year, some countries face the sun and some face away. This creates our days, nights and seasons.

In June, in the Northern Hempishere, the earth is tilting towards the sun so on each rotation we are facing the sun for longer... this means we have more daylight. We tend to say we have longer days, but of course there is still the same amount of time in each day!

If Earth didn't tilt.. the north and south poles would need get any light at all!

This is a wonderful video from the BBC that explains how it all works.

Here are some fun activities for you to try using the sun… how does your shadow change during the day, and depending on where yo stand? Why do you think this is? (click for a PDF of the sheet)

Please do send me any pictures - click here


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