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Investigating the Moon

Type of Activity:

  • Lab Activity

Brief description of the activity and its strengths:

Students explore lunar data and eventually create their own mini-research project in this "backwards-faded scaffolded" activity.



Type and level of course in which you would use this activity:

We used this activity within a weeklong lunar institute for high school teachers, but it is sufficiently complex for undergraduate classes in planetary science.  Brian Grigsby has also used this within his high school classes. Can be used for introductory courses at the undergraduate level or in teacher courses.

Skills and concepts that students should have mastered before beginning the activity:

Students should already be familiar with the Moon’s scale relative to the Earth, and with the Moon’s rotation (they should understand that the Moon keeps the same side facing the Earth).
Students should already be familiar with how craters form.

How the activity is situated in its course

This was a culminating activity within lunar science content.


Students explore the Moon through a series of mini-research projects that are progressively open-ended in this “backwards-faded scaffolded” research activity. In the first project, the instructor provides students with a question, a mechanism for doing the research, and shows them how to answer the question. In the second project, the instructor provides the students with a question and a mechanism for doing the research, but invites the students to answer the question themselves. In the third project, the instructor provides a question, but not a mechanism for doing the research or an answer. In the last project, the students develop their own questions and collect their own data to determine an answer. Each of these projects uses the database available at  Brian Grigsby created the student worksheet and tested this with his students.


Students should be able to generate a research question about the Moon, examine the data, and defend their conclusion.  Ideally, this will be accompanied by a discussion of the nature of scientific research, challenges, processes, errors, etc.

Supporting references and/or URLs 


Lunar science

Digital Object Identifier

Submitted By:

First Name:Christine
Last Name:Shupla
Institution:Lunar and Planetary Institute