Winter is one of the four seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. Depending on where you live, it often brings colder weather and shorter days. And of course, you can’t forget the chance of snow!
It comes after autumn and before spring in the cycle of the seasons. This means that it’s the direct opposite of summer. That makes sense because while spring and autumn have equinoxes, summer and winter have solstices. But more on that later.
As deciduous trees grow barren, many changes can be observed in plants. Animals, great and small, hibernate to stay warm and survive the cold weather.
Learning about winter is essential for children, as it can help embed knowledge of the processes that take place in the natural world. In this Teaching Wiki, you’ll find a whole host of facts about winter, including:
- Seasonal changes that plants and animals undergo;
- A selection of holidays and events that take place during winter;
- Ten fascinating winter facts for kids;
- Fun teaching resources to use with your elementary school students!
When is winter?
While there are different ways to define the four seasons, winter officially takes place from December to March. This is according to the astronomical definition of the seasons. This means that a season lasts from the solstice to the equinox or the equinox to the solstice.
What is the winter solstice?
Winter solstice is a celestial event that occurs on December 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere, depending on where you live.
It’s reversed for the Southern Hemisphere, so people who live there will experience their winter solstice in place of our summer solstice on June 20th or 21st.
The winter solstice is also known as the shortest day of the year. It occurs when the Sun is at the furthest point from that half of the world because of how the Earth tilts.
In other words, it’s visible in the sky for the least amount of time, so we have less daylight and more nighttime.
Another name for the winter solstice is the hibernal solstice. Does that word sound familiar? Think of the word “hibernate” – something that animals do during the winter season!
Are there other definitions of winter?
Yes! You can also determine the beginning of winter by its meteorological start. This is based on what the weather is like on average during this time of the year.
The meteorological start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is on December 1st, 20 days earlier! It ends on March 1st when spring begins.
This definition might align more closely with what people usually think of winter.
Seasonal Changes in Winter
As we mentioned, you can observe many seasonal changes during the winter. These happen naturally to plants and animals with no human input. These biological processes allow other living things to adapt well to the colder temperatures and ensure they survive.
What happens to plants in winter?
In the autumn, many trees will have their leaves turn brown, red, or orange. This happens when chlorophyll is no longer needed because there isn’t enough sunlight to photosynthesize. What you see is the leaves’ natural color before they drop off through a lack of food.
Don’t worry, though. This doesn’t hurt the tree!
During winter, many of these trees will be barren. That means you can only see the trunk and the branches. It can give you a good view of any bird’s nests that would have been hidden during other months of the year.
What about flowers?
Like trees, frost often withers away a flower’s food source: its green leaves. This means that a lot of plants die off. However, during their growing season, they produce a lot of seeds that can survive the winter and sprout the following year. These plants are called annuals.
Some tiny wildflowers and plants need winter to grow. If the bright sun or dry weather is too much for them, they may be better suited to near-freezing temperatures in December.
What happens to animals in winter?
Animals survive the winter in several ways. These include hibernation, migration, and physical adaptation.
What is winter migration?
Many birds and fish travel to new locations where they will be better protected from cold temperatures and harsh weather. This is known as migration, and it happens because they can fly or swim across great distances during the autumn. The animals might not consciously realize that they’re doing this, as they’re biologically programmed to do it!
When the weather becomes habitable again, they’ll return.
What is hibernation?
In winter, there is little food left for animals to eat. This means that many species survive by conserving their energy through hibernation.
Before animals go into hibernation, they have to prepare. This happens during the autumn, as they collect a lot of food to eat and build up their energy storage.
As they enter hibernation, their heart begins to beat slower. Their body temperature cools to match the weather outside, keeping them somewhat protected. They try to use as little energy as possible during this process – hence the sleeping.
What is adaptation?
So, how does an animal that doesn’t migrate or hibernate survive the winter? The answer often lies in adaptation. This involves special features that these animals have, allowing them to adapt to cold weather. For example, it might include growing a thicker layer of fur or changing color, so they’re camouflaged in the snow.
One example of these adaptations can be seen in seals. Seals have a thick layer of fat on their bellies to keep them from freezing on the ice.
10 Holidays and Events in Winter
- New Year’s Eve
- Chinese New Year
- Valentine’s Day
- Groundhog Day
- Tu Bishvat
- Las Posadas