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Earth and Space Science

Sun, Earth, and Moon

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Amy Casey Amy Casey 2360 Points

Does anyone have ideas of making lessons on the Sun, Earth, and Moon more tangible? I tried a Science experiment with the 5th graders using a flashlight, ping pong ball, ball of paper and a black sheet of paper. At first they had difficulty positioning the items that represented the sun, earth, and moon. I was trying to think of other ideas to help make the topic interesting.

Lori Towata Lori Towata 2825 Points

If you download the Earth, Sun, and Moon SciPack in the Section called "Motion of the Moon" -> "Changing Faces of the moon" -> "Phases from Above the Earth" that has an interactive that students can see/try out together. Since it's in your SciPack (not sure if it's its own object) you can refer to it if you have that SciPack... I've showed this model to my class via display from LCD projector and did this as a virtual class model, but I'm not sure if that's exactly what you're looking for. The student model interactive might make sense with taking digital picture and trying to understand what they are doing. It's hard for them to "see" what is going on when they ARE part of the model. It's such an abstract concept that they may need to revisit. You could consider it a performance assessment. I personally love the brain pop jr (but you could try the regular one) with a trial subscription to see if that content will work for your 5th graders. The Jr. version has basic information on moon phases. I also use the BBC website which I recommend frequently on this post because it's so easy for students to use. I was trying to find other modeled sites, but without much immediate google success.

Denise Karratti Denise Karratti 820 Points

In my class I use a globe and the light from my elmo lamp to show the relationship between the sun and the Earth. (I never tried incorporating the moon as well.) I like to stick a little Lego figurine onto the globe on Hawaii since that is where we live. I also stick another figurine in Dubai since that is where my sister lived. Having the figurines on the globe help the students track as the Earth turns. Since Hawaii and Dubai are on opposite sides of the Earth I can ask students who is experiencing day and who is experiencing night. The figurines really help make this concept concrete. I also like to pose questions such as, "What would happen if Earth stopped rotating?", "What would happen if Earth rotated faster/slower?" These questions help students make connections to the importance of Earth's rotation. Students enjoy thinking about how different their lives would be. They have to consider plant growth, hours in a day to work/play, and even the need for curtains/street lights. I'm not sure if any of this is helpful. It may not even be at the level you teach at. I teach 4th grade so these are the kinds of concepts we explore.

Helen Hicks Helen Hicks 2635 Points

Teaching Earth, Sun and Moon is a hard conpect for students because if they cannot see the object they don't believe it's there. But through lots of activites, labs and videos the students will slowly understand the conpect.

 Stephanie Coy 1720 Points

You could have the students demonstrate using themselves as the sun,earth, moon. This helps them really understand the movement by doing it themselves.

Nancy Iaukea Nancy Iaukea 2710 Points

Amy, The TSI courses available on PD360 here in Hawaii have an incredible scripted lesson to teach the relationship between sun, earth, and moon. Students hold a styrofoam ball on a pencil and move around a hanging light bulb in the center of the room. It is a very hands-on, active lesson and the students can really "see" what is happening. If you get the chance take the series of courses - the materials and instructors are the best I've worked with! I am so excited this year to tie the lessons I learned in these courses with the ones in the Earth Space Sci pacs I've been taking - they are very complimentary and I am positive they compliment each other.

Joy Agard Joy Agard 2190 Points

I agree with Lori - those interactive videos in the Sun, Earth, Moon SciPack are great for use in the classroom. I have a Promethean board so I can make a flipchart and embed the video so students can come up to the board and learn from the playing with the videos. I haven't decided on my hands-on activity but I like the idea of having students make believe they are the sun, earth, and moon in groups of 3 and do a "dance" of their movement.

1) Get a cardboard box - about 8 in x 9 in x 15 in, 2) Cut one (peep) hole in 1, 2, 3 sides of the box. Holes should be approx. 1 cm diameter, 3) Get a flashlight - small one about 6 in long and 1 in wide (at light bulb end) and 1/2 in wide (handle end), 4) Cut another hole in 4th side of box big enough to fit light bulb end of flashlight through, 5) Secure string to a ping-pong ball: Somehow secure stirng to 2 (opposite) ends of ball, 6) Attach one loose string end to the top middle side of box. Then, attach other loose string end to the bottom middle side of box. 7) Box should be secured shut. 8) Turn flashlight on, 9) Have students look through the 3 peep holes to get a glimpse of what the phases of the moon would look like at different times of the month. I hope this works for you! I got the idea from another teacher.

Catherine Lee Catherine Lee 2720 Points

Although you asked about activities that are hands on relating to the sun, earth, and moon, I have some other suggestions for this topic. The Maryland Science Center is a great environment for learning about the solar system. I recently went and sat through the planetarium show and it was interesting and educational. During the show, I was able to observe how far away the sun and earth were from each other. For an informal lesson, you could take the students to this location and they could learn about the sun, earth, moon, and more. There is also an exhibit about space. There are some sphere objects for students to touch and look at. So, although this type of lesson would not be very tangible, it would be a great way for your students to learn about the sun, earth, moon, and solar system. If the Maryland Science Center is too far, there may be science centers or exhibits nearby. If you want to look into this center, this is the website... I know you were interested in finding out tangible lessons, but hopefully the information I provided to you about this type of informal lesson will be useful in the future.

Joy Agard Joy Agard 2190 Points

I have a Promethean board (interactive white board) in my classroom. I found these lessons to share today. They are from the Promethean Planet website. I believe downloading is free. Even if you don't have an interactive white board, you can still show it over a projector. Here's the link: I didn't realize it is Space Week. Using the NSTA SciPack along with Promethean Planet lessons are a great way to integrate science and technology with hands-on activities this week.

Tracey Matsui Tracey Matsui 570 Points

I really like doing the activity where you show the size of the planets and their distances from the sun on a scale. It's a good activity to give students perspective and also good to integrate math by doing things to scale. Might be hard, though, because the scale is so small, but a good activity anyway.

I first heard of a Promethean Board on a website ( There are posters on the website but I need Promethean Board program to use or even see them. Do you know of any other way to view anything that is a "Promethean Board" program for those who don't have the program (on computer) and board itself? Is it like a Smartboard?

Sherilynn Chang Sherilynn Chang 1220 Points

One way to begin is to have the kids observe. They can list down things they already know about the sun and moon and then go outside on different days and different times and take down what they see or their wonderings. I loved reading the Sun, Earth, Moon scipack because it made me think about what scientists did before we had satellite photos and telescopes. They can observe position of the sun in the sky, size of the sun, the path of the sun, shadows being cast, etc. It would be especially great for the kids to notice that some mornings they'll be able to see the moon and some they won't. Very simple, very interactive, and builds on inquiry. Granted, this is an entry lesson into Sun, Moon, and Earth, but getting them started with this may help to scaffold their understanding with the research, models, videos, and activities you do with them later.

Eve Nishikawa Eve Nishikawa 3190 Points

Hi Amy, I agree with Helen that teaching this concept is very challenging because they aren't able to see it with their eyes. When kids can't see or touch the object it is very hard for them to grasp the idea. Instead, to give them a deeper understanding I relate the idea with something that they do understand. For example, recently we were covering conversions in math and I was able to have them convert how big the planets are from feet to miles. Although they don't understand it to the fullest extent, it still gives them an idea. I also use videos to help them. There are some very good videos online. My favorite is brainpop and brainpopjr. They do a wonderful job of explaining ideas and providing pictures where the students are able to better understand.

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