Sun Ray Basket Toss

Activity Developed by the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

Description/Learning goals:

Participants will relate the movement and tilt of the Earth to the change in seasons throughout the year.


Paper cup or bowl

Hole Punch

String or yarn

Light ball or bean bag

Activity Instructions:

In this activity, one of the participants will be the Earth, and one will be the sun. Decorate your paper cup or bowl to look like the Earth.

Punch two holes in the bottom of the paper cup, and string the yarn through the hole, through the inside of the cup, and back out the other hole, and tie it around your head.

Have someone stand as the “sun,” and have the “Earth” rotate around the sun. The sun is trying to get its rays (the ball) to the Earth. Try to toss the ball lightly to the Earth. Now have the Earth tilt its head slightly away from the sun. Is it easier if the paper cup is tilted towards the sun or away?

Discuss how this might affect people and plants on Earth. If less rays are getting to the Earth, will it be warmer or colder? What time of year do you think the Earth is tilted further from the sun? 

Science Concepts:

Tilting of the Earth: Over a year, the Earth rotates around the sun. Throughout the year, the Earth tilts slightly, with the poles moving towards and away from the sun. In the winter, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, meaning colder days and longer nights.

Climate vs Weather: Weather is what is happening over a short period of time, like a day. Seasons are cyclical changes in weather throughout the year, and are caused by the tilt of the Earth. Climate is the typical weather conditions for an area over a long period of time, like 30 years. 

Early Learning 101:

Physical health is an important aspect to a child’s development, as well as developing fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills are necessary to color the “Earth” in this activity. This activity has opportunities for practicing gross motor skills as well: controlling large muscles for movement, navigation and balance. This activity involves some element of controlling the body, and allows for some practice for using objects to practice motor coordination by tossing the ball into the basket.