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Discover Earth's climate with a balloon

Created: 2024-05-13
Naomi Asabre Frimpong (Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute), Albert Forson, Wonder Sewavi

Using common objects from their environment, students go on an interactive journey to learn about how the Earth is divided into different climatic zones. Learners will be able to identify and visualise the various climate zones of our world via practical experimentation and imaginative use of materials. Through this practice, their knowledge of geography is expanded, and they gain a better grasp of how these zones impact global climate patterns. Students will build a tangible and memorable understanding of temperate zones by actively participating in the building of a model Earth, which will deepen their knowledge of the variety of habitats that make up our planet.

  • Image of climatic zones on Earth
  • Thread
  • Tape
  • Glue/sellotape
  • Ball/Balloon
  • Scissors
  • Marker /pencil
  • Two circular cut-outs (labelled ‘N’ and ‘S’)
  • Labels (braille or printed)

Exploring Earth's Temperate Zones: Materials


This activity requires simple crafting skills, following a sequence of steps that are appropriate for upper elementary school students. The activity combines hands-on learning with visual and spatial understanding.
It also introduces a basic understanding of geographical concepts, and fosters appreciation for the diversity of Earth's environments applying geographical concepts critically to understand real-world issues.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this activity, students will be able to:

  • Locate North and South Poles, the equator and prime meridian on a globe.
  • Understand the various climatic divisions of Earth.
  • Identify and articulate the distinct features of Earth's temperate zones and how they play a crucial role in shaping global climate patterns.
  • Examine how temperate zones affect both biodiversity and human societies.

The Earth is divided into several temperature zones, mostly depending on latitude. These regions have different climate conditions due to their closeness to the equator and poles.

Tropical Zone

Located between the Tropics of Cancer (23.5°N latitude) and Capricorn (23.5°S latitude), this zone has warm weather all year, with temperatures rarely dipping below 18°C (64°F). The abundance of sunlight throughout the year contributes to the constantly warm temperatures.

Temperate Zones

These zones exist between the tropics and the polar circles, extending from the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Circle in the Northern Hemisphere and from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Antarctic Circle in the Southern Hemisphere. The temperate zone has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Temperatures in these zones may vary widely throughout the year.

Polar Zones

The polar zones, which extend from the Arctic Circle to the North Pole in the Northern Hemisphere and from the Antarctic Circle to the South Pole in the Southern Hemisphere, have cold temperatures all year. During the summer, the sun may not set for several months (known as the "Midnight Sun"), and in the winter, it may not rise at all, resulting in polar night.

The Poles

The North Pole is located in the midst of the Arctic Ocean, surrounded by fluctuating sea ice. It is colder than the South Pole due to height and land-sea distribution.

The South Pole is located on the continent of Antarctica and is 2,835 metres (9,306 feet) above sea level, making it far colder than the North Pole. The Antarctic Ice Sheet, Earth's greatest single mass of ice, covers the South Pole.

​​Climate Impact

The distribution of temperature zones has a substantial impact on global climate patterns, biodiversity, and human societies. Temperate zones, for example, are ideal for agriculture due to their moderate climate, but polar zones are critical for controlling Earth's temperature and serve as sensitive indicators of climate change.

Understanding these temperature areas and their features gives a foundational understanding of Earth's diverse climate system, generating a greater appreciation for our planet's complexity and the significance of environmental stewardship.

Full Description

The activity consists of introducing the division of the Earth into climatic zones through the creation of a simple hands-on tactile model.
After introducing the concept of meridians and parallels, imaginary lines that allow you to create a kind of map on the Earth globe, we build the model to characterize the key reference points (poles, polar circles, tropics and equator).

STEP 1 Define North and South Pole

  1. Grab a ball or inflate a balloon.
  2. Draw a dot on two opposite sides of it.
  3. Name one dot "North Pole" and the other "South Pole."
  4. Use glue or tape a circular cut-out on the North Pole dot and the South Pole dot.

STEP 2 Geographical Meridian and Equator

  1. Take some thread and wrap it all around from North Pole to South Pole and back.
  2. Secure the thread to the ball or balloon with glue or tape.
  3. This thread is now called the "Geographical Meridian."
  4. Find the middle point between the North and South Poles and mark it.
  5. Draw a circle on that middle point around your ball or balloon.
  6. Wrap a thread on this circle and glue or tape it to the ball or balloon.
  7. This is the "Equator."

STEP 3 Define the Tropics and the Artic Circles

  1. From the North Pole to the Equator, mark three equal spaces and draw circles at each.
  2. Do the same from the South Pole to the Equator.
  3. These spaces will be around 22.5 to 23.5 degrees apart.
  4. Place a thread on the first circle above the Equator, glue or tape it, and call it "Tropic of Cancer."
  5. Above that, put a thread on the last circle towards the North Pole, glue or tape it, and name it "Arctic Circle."
  6. Below the Equator towards the South Pole, repeat and name the first circle "Tropic of Capricorn" and the last one "Antarctic Circle."

And there you have it! You've just made the Earth's special lines and zones on your model!

Compare your model with the image of the Earth Climatic zones. You can use the model not only to barely introduce them, but also to discuss about the main characteristics of each zone (main temperature, climate, habitat, biodiversity).

Exploring Earth's Temperate Zones: North Pole

Exploring Earth's Temperate Zones: South Pole

Exploring Earth's Temperate Zones: Full model


The evaluation of the activity's various components can be approached as follows:

Show and Tell:

  • Review what each student presents about their Earth model and the temperate zones fact they share.
  • Encourage reflections on what was learned about Earth's climate zones.

Map It Out Game:

  • Check the accuracy of where students place their stickers for the equator, poles, and climate zones on the map.
  • Discuss the importance of these geographical markers and how they influence Earth's climate.


  • Check if the models are built correctly.
  • Encourage the students to explain what they have learnt about the temperature regions.
  • Do they understand how Earth is divided into temperate zones and the significance of these divisions?
  • Can they explain how these zones affect global climate, biodiversity, and human life?
  2. USA’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for elementary and middle school levels, particularly under Earth's Systems and Earth and Human Activity topics.
  3. UK's National Curriculum for Key Stages 2 and 3 under science and geography subjects.
Additional Information

This activity also offers an excellent opportunity to educate visually impaired children about Earth's temperate regions.

Further Reading
  • National Geographic Kids Beginner's World Atlas
  • The Reasons for Seasons" by Gail Gibbons
  • NASA Climate Kids