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Earth and Space Science

Phases of the Moon

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Janet Ruiz Janet Ruiz 435 Points

Good evening,

My name is Janet Ruiz, I am currently researching creative and engaging activities that involve the phases of the moon. I am trying to create a knowledgeable and fun activity that can help the students learn easily. I typically do finger paintings, but I wanted to see if anyone else has alternative activities that they have found easy to use and meaningful as well. Thank you in advance. 

Matt Bobrowsky Matt Bobrowsky 6225 Points

Janet, the usual activities you hear about using paper plates or Oreos don't actually teach much about the phases of the moon. They don't explain why the phases have the names that they have; and knowing that makes the names much easier to remember. Instead, try something more experiential:

In an otherwise dark room, set up a bright light bulb in the center representing the sun, and let students explore how a ball (or any round object, like an orange) shows different phases when looked at from different angles and as the ball moves around the "sun."

Then, on a day when the moon is visible in the sky, give them each a small ball or orange, take them outside, and have them hold up the ball in the direction of the moon. The ball will show the same phase as the moon -- and for the same reason! (See the attached photo. Cool, huh?)


Andrew Fraknoi Andrew Fraknoi 410 Points

Dear Janet and Everyone:

Recently retired NSTA President Dennis Schatz has for many years recommended (and trained teachers on) a wonderful suite of activities for teaching the phases of the Moon really effectively.  We wrote up the suite in its most usable form in the book "Solar Science" by Dennis Schatz and Andrew Fraknoi, published by NSTA Press: https://my.nsta.org/resource/102100/solar-science-exploring-sunspots-seasons-eclipses-and-more  

You can find a free version at his website: https://www.dennisschatz.org/

When you go to his site, just use the menu to go to Favorite Science Activities

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