This year the vernal equinox will occur Sunday, March 20 in the northern hemisphere. On the equinox, the sun passes over the celestial equator (the invisible line in the sky above the earth’s equator), making the length of daylight and night nearly equal. The term equinox is derived from a Latin term meaning “equal night”. The nearly equal lengths of day and night on the equinox are a result of the tilt of the earth’s axis being perpendicular to the sun on this day. Earth Sky has good information describing the science of the upcoming vernal equinox, along with a video (about halfway down the page) explaining the seasons.
The vernal equinox also marks the first day of spring. This has long been celebrated as a time of renew. Many cultures mark the arrival of spring around the vernal equinox emphasizing fertility, birth, and growth. Celebrations can take form in a number of ways. Here are a few ideas to connect with nature on this special celestial day, and observe the changing of the season:
- Set up a spring nature table. Bring a bit of nature in to display in a beautiful arrangement. Collect rocks, feathers, twigs, and maybe even some flowers from a nature walk. Take cuttings from budding flowering shrubs, place them in a vase of water, and force them to bloom indoors. This small alter for the season provides a place to connect with the natural world even while indoors.
- Try to balance an egg. There is an old anecdote that asserts an egg can be balanced on end only twice a year (on the equinoxes). Whether or not this is scientifically accurate, it is still a fun activity to try!
- Go for a nature walk and spot signs of spring. There are many tell-tale changes in nature as spring draws near. Birds become more abundant as many return from their winter habitats and their songs can once again be heard all around. Other animals become more active, like the chipmunks and squirrels who come out of their winter dens. Buds form on trees. Flowers begin to grow, with snowdrops and crocuses being the first flowers to pop up around here. Explore the world around you, and see how many changes you can find.
- Have a picnic outside. The arrival of spring means warmer weather and more sunlight. Why not celebrate the nicer weather by having a picnic in the fresh air. Set up a blanket in the grass or on a deck or patio and enjoy a simple picnic lunch or snack.
- Plant seeds. Since spring signals a time of growth, what could be a more fitting activity than to plant and grow seeds? Find a sunny window of your house. Fill some small peat pots with a seed-starting soil. Plant a few sunflower seeds and watch the seedlings grow. When the weather warms up enough, transplant the flowers outside to enjoy through the summer and into the fall. Perhaps, even, use these seedlings to build your own sunflower house.
For some great reads about spring, take a look at this month’s Nature Book List.
And, check out these other links for more spring-welcoming activities:
- Spring Activities for Kids from Tinker Lab
- Be a Spring Explorer: 5 Nature Activities for Kids from Parents
- Outdoor Games, Crafts, and Nature Activites for Kids from KC Edventures
- Spring Crafts from The Magic Onions