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Earth and Space Science

phases of the moon activities

Author Post
Nicole Bartkovich Nicole Bartkovich 690 Points

Hi Everyone, I teach 8th grade special education. Right now we are on spring break and return next week for two days before we have off again. I will be starting phases of the moon and was wondering if anyone had any activities that I could do with the students for those two days that would get them excited for the unit. Thank you

Betty Paulsell Betty Paulsell 48560 Points

Nicole, I did a search for "moon phases" and it seems that it is hard to find a very simple way to explain moon phases, but I did find one article that I think you can adapt to your needs. I am attaching it to this posting. Good luck.


Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

This activity may be useful as well.

Nicole Bartkovich Nicole Bartkovich 690 Points

Thanks for the ideas everyone. I actually found a bunch of pictures of the different phases which I am hanging around the room with the earth hanging from the center of the room and the sun by the board. I also found a powerpoint that explained each of the phases that I was able to adapt for my students. After stressing out about finding the easiest way for them to learn about the phases I now have an abundance of activities. Now I have to find a way to choose which ones will be the best! Thanks again

Stacy Holland Stacy Holland 6865 Points

We do a styrofoam ball project. We have student create a phase of the moon, and hang it on fishing line from the ceiling of the room. We use a desk lamp and turn out the lights. I attach the globe in the center and each group shines the light with their phase and explains what everyone should be seeing. It is a great group activity.

Mitchell Miho Mitchell Miho 3090 Points

When i ran my moon phase unit i used Oreo cookies and had the students carve the moon phases onto the cream. This got them to be engaged in the activity since it dealt with food. However, they had to have each of their phases checked off and were required to test one another in their groups.

Sarah Romano Saget Sarah Romano Saget 100 Points

Hi Mitchell, I love your idea of teaching phases of the moon with orea cookies. I can just imagine how great the shape stands out in the cream against the brown/black of the cookie. i would love to give this a try. can you recommend any interactive websites of simulations of the phases that the students could watch first before recreating their own on the cookies? Thanks for the great idea!

Jessie Minter Jessie Minter 1895 Points

For Moon phases, I incorporate the data I gather with our GLOBE participation and expand it. We use the newspaper to find out what time the moon sets and rises on Bolivar and put that data in an Excel Spread sheet for several days. Then, I have them subtract the setting from the rising to see how long the Moon was "out." They always find that a little surprising and then I mention there will be a couple of times a year that there is not a rising or there is not a setting in the period of a day. Wow! that boggles their mind but they are fascinated to find that out and remember it. When we take the data for the moon rise and moon set, we notice that the moon will be out during the day and we can see it while we are at school. In the same data we record the moon phase. When we get to observe it during the day, we are able to identify the phase we see according to a guide from GLOBE. There are free ones online, too. This recording of data, observing the moon when it is visible during the day and actually deciding the phase by comparing it to the chart [url=] makes this concept a little easier to see. Now, convincing them of why, takes a lot more. But this enables them to identify the phases and to realize that the moon dances to its own drummer with regard to the amount of time it's "out." This Webquest is a good starter for learning the phases and for learning why there are phases:[url=], Phases of the Moon Webquest. In addition, it's someone's job everyday to put up the phase of the moon on the board and name whether is is waxing or waning when that fits. Have fun.

Rachel Lopez Rachel Lopez 4275 Points

Hello, I used the Oreo project with my students as well. It worked amazingly with them as they were entertained by the food and interactive nature of the project. When I was first researching this I came across this video that really helped me see the exact steps of how to create this project. Hope it helps.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67945 Points

I would like to see kids start out with a question. It is the basis for further inquiry. There are so many good activities in "Uncovering Student Ideas about Astronomy." You might begin there. Another option might be to use literature to connect moon phases to ideas your students understand. "Moon Tricks" is a story that many will relate to, and provide a starting point for discussion. I have attached a collection of several journal articles and book chapters that you might find useful, with lots of ideas for starting a unit, as well as a couple of monitoring projects that could be modified for older students as well as elementary students. Keep it real; most students probably will not readily notice the change of moonrise, moonset, and the path the moon takes, so observation may be important.

Moon Phases Collection (25 items)
Nicole Bartkovich Nicole Bartkovich 690 Points

Hi All, I also used the orea activity when I was teaching the phases, but I used it differently then it would normally be done. After going over each phase of the moon through lecture, discussion, and creating a moon phase calendar I had them create a model of the phases of the moon so we could hang them around the room. While they were working on the project I told them they should be studying for their test at end of the week. Since my students are all special education they tend to stress out and do poorly on tests because they are required to read questions and then write an answer to them. When they came into class I told them to take everything off their desk for the test. I then gave them each a laminated (so that they can be cleaned and used again) paper that had a sun and the earth on it along with 8 oreos. There job was to create the phases with the oreos and set up up in the correct order surrounding the earth. After they were finished I walked around and graded each student. I found that the students were more successful with this type of activity then if I were to give them a written test. One student even said thanks for letting me take the test this way because I have trouble showing it in words.

D B Dionne Octavius 6395 Points

for the phase of the moon there is a lot of things that you can do with your 8th grade students for example in my college science class my teacher actually had us do the phases of the moon and it was fun to go out every night with my mom or my little brother to look at the moon. doing this made me closer to my family because we had something to look forward to at night and as special education students it is imperative for them to spend time with their siblings. one thing you can do is give them a chart an tell them every night they should look at the moon with a sibling and color the chart.

Jim McDonald Jim McDonald 4720 Points

I would investigate the Moon Phase Activities in the GEMS Space Science Sequence for Grades 3-5. They are hands-on, minds-on and are good with students with special needs.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 91088 Points

Hi Dionne and other thread participants! I agree with you, Dionne! The best way to learn about the moon phases - is by going outside to observe each night for a month - and when others can join in, it is even better! Carolyn

Jim McDonald Jim McDonald 4720 Points

Dionne and Carolyn I completely agree. Nothing like experiencing it for yourself. Jim McDonald

Gabriella Rouch Gabriella Rouch 2425 Points

I have also taught the phases of the moon using Oreo cookies and the kids LOVED it! The only challenge was having my students take the cookie apart and carve the cream out without breaking the cookie. Other than that, it was an activity that was fun and more importantly they learned from it. One more thing I might add is you can take this lesson outside of the classroom and apply it at home. Every night over the course of a month have them look at the moon and draw what they see. In the end they will have observed the phases of the moon.

Jolene Wu Jolene Wu 510 Points

For a high school astronomy unit, I'm planning on discussing the role of the moon as it relates to our solar system and as it relates to life on Earth. Since the expectation is that the learners' background already includes the phases of the moon, the emphasis in my lesson is on the effect of the moon's phases on Earth. Thanks to this thread, I'm able to use an NSTA resource titled, "Going Through a Phase" ( to inform the content I'll be using. Using this approach, I'm hoping to increase content retention since students will be learning about the phases of the moon as it relates to their own experiences on Earth. Particularly in Hawaii, water conditions are important to students for their extra curricular activities and interests so relating moon phases and positions of the moon to water conditions may be an attention-grabbing approach. In the future I'd like to see if there are any inquiry based activities for this unit.

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