Lunar and Planetary Institute

Loony Lunar Phases
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Loony Lunar Phases


Children ages 8 to 11 discover the Moon's influence on our culture through this 30-minute, light-hearted investigation of lunar phases. The children hear a story, song, or (silly or serious) poem that celebrates the Moon's different phases. They recreate the shapes of the lunar phases using the frosting from Oreo® cookies, and then they place them in correct order to reveal the repeating pattern. As they eat the cookies, they consider how our culture would differ without the Moon changing shape in the sky over time. They use words inspired by the Moon to write a short poem.


For the group:

  • One or more videos, books, songs, or poems about the Moon, such as (refer to resources for other suggestions):

SkyTellers: "Moon Phases" Chapter
The activities and resources found here will help children further explore the phases of our Moon after they have listened to the Native American tale of "The Girl Who Married the Moon" and the science story.Appropriate for ages 5 and up.

Faces of the Moon
Bob Crelin, Charlesbridge, 2009, ISBN 9781570917851
A great way to help children ages 4–8 learn about the phases of the Moon! Cut-outs in the pages help illustrate that phases are merely the result of light and shadow.

The Best Book of the Moon
Ian Graham, Kingfisher, 2005, ISBN 0753459027
Lunar cycles and eclipses, features, landings, and myths are presented for children ages 4 to 8.

How the Moon Regained Her Shape
Janet Heller, Sylvan Dell, 2007, ISBN 1934359025
The author uses a native American folk myth to teach children 4–8 about the moon's phases and encourage children's self-esteem. There is also an end section of science ideas.

Dot to Dot in the Sky: Stories of the Moon
Joan Marie Galat, Whitecap Books, 2004, ISBN 1552856100
The author shares with children age 9–12 stories about the Moon from other cultures. Moon facts, including information about geology, tides, Moon phases, eclipses, are listed with each story presented.

The Moon
David Jefferis, Crabtree Publishing Company, 2008, ISBN 0778737314
This book provides children ages 9–12 with a lot of great information about the Moon, its phases, surface characteristics and how you can observe the Moon. Also provided are interesting facts and a glossary.

The Moon: Earth's Companion in Space
Michael D. Cole, 2001, Enslow Publishers, ISBN: 0766015106
Children ages 9 to 12 learn about lunar orbits and phases, human exploration, and the mystery about how our Moon formed. 

The Earth and the Moon
Linda Elkins-Tanton, Chelsea House, 2006, ISBN 0816051941
Written for young adults and adults, this book discusses Earth's size, orbit, mass, seasons and more as well as the evolution of the Moon.

"Moon-catchin' Net," Shel Silverstein

"Half Moonshine," Judith Viorst

"New Moon," D.H. Lawrence 

"You know that Portrait in the Moon," Emily Dickinson

"The Moon And The Yew Tree," Sylvia Plath

"The Harvest Moon," Ted Hughes

"Under the Harvest Moon," Carl Sandburg

"The Crescent Moon," Amy Lowell

"Moon River," "Moonriver" by Henri Mancini

"Moonlight Sonata," Ludwig Von Beethoven

For each child:

For the facilitator:


Facilitator's Note: This activity is not meant to model why the Moon has phases, only to assist in connecting the names and shapes, and to help the children remember the order. Attempts to model the three-dimensional nature of Moon phases with these two dimensions may lead to confusion.
Although there are other activities that place the phases in a circular formation, this may confuse children if they attempt to conceptualize the location of the Sun or Earth in relation to the Moon's orbit. We recommend that children first learn to correctly match the names with the appearances of each phase and to place them in order.

For very young children, you may want to model only four Moon phases (new moon, first quarter Moon, full Moon, and third quarter Moon). Older children should be able to model all eight phases.

The Moon's phases are a natural example of a recurring predictable cycle. They have been used as a calendar by many different cultures throughout history.


1. Invite the children to describe what the Moon looks like, and how it changes shapes.

  • What shapes does the Moon take?  Depending on the age level, the children will describe the shapes generally (crescent, semicircle/half Moon, circle) or by their proper names: new Moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full Moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent.

2. Explain to the children that they will be using Oreo cookies to draw the phases and to put them into order. Demonstrate how to twist and open a cookie so that the frosting is all on one side.

    • Which side looks like the full Moon? The cookie that has all the frosting on one side.
    • Which side looks like the new Moon? The cookie that has no frosting.

    3. Provide six cookies, a paper towel, a plastic spoon or knife to each child, and invite him or her to follow the pictures shown in Food Phases Guide. (Each cookie should be able to make two Moon phases, but some will break, and some of the frosting will go "missing.")

4. Invite the children to twist their cookies open and scrape the Oreo cookies to illustrate Moon phases, and ask them to arrange cookies on top of the Food Phases Guide in order.

5. Read one or more of the books while the children work.

6. Optional: Sing a song about lunar phases! Hand out copies of Phrases for Phases and sing the song together to the tune of "The Ants Go Marching." Alternatively, lead the children in singing "When the light is on the right" (sung to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it"):

When the light is on the right it's getting bright (snap, snap)
When the light is on the right it's getting bright (snap, snap)
When the light is on the right,
Then the Moon is getting bright
When the light is on the right it's getting bright (snap, snap)

7. Have the children eat their cookies and consider what Earth would be like without the Moon's light. Discuss the cultural artifacts that would be missing in a world without the lunar phases.

  • There would be no stories of werewolves or lunar fables since there would be no Moon growing to full. What stories would we tell instead?
  • There would be no music or rhymes about the Moon. What songs do you know about the Moon?
  • Our language would be different. What words can you think of that have some form of the words "Moon" or "lunar"? Month, honeymoon, lunatic, etc.


Invite the children to complete the Moon in My Own Words poem and add it as the next page in the Marvel Moon comic book by clipping the book together at the upper left corner.

Facilitator's Note: The Moon in My Own Words poetry template directs children to write a cinquain (pronounced sing-keyn or sing-keyn), a short poem of five lines.

For children ages 8 to 9, announce the next activity, Moon Mythbusters. Ask children 10 and older to return to discover the reason for the Moon's phases in Lunar Phases: A Dance under the Sun.


Last updated
April 7, 2014

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