Lunar and Planetary Institute

Marvel Moon - Activities
EXPLORE! To the Moon and Beyond with NASA's LRO Mission


Meet the Moon and the Comic Book Star

Moon over My Town
Community members of all ages are invited to contribute photographs — taken with cell phones, film cameras, or more sophisticated equipment — of the Moon. The images are collected over the course of a month or more and posted in chronological order. The collection forms a library display featuring the Moon's changing appearance in your local sky over the course of a month or more. This community engagement activity can be offered before, during, or after offering Explore! Marvel Moon programs at your site.

Time Travelers
Children, ages 8–13, embark on an exploration of Earth's and the Moon's shared history in this 30 -minute introductory activity for the Explore! Marvel Moon module. They work in groups to determine the order of geologic events — such as the formation of the Moon and when the bright crater of Tycho formed — and arrange images depicting those events in the correct order. The children are introduced to NASA lunar scientists, who are currently investigating the Moon's history, through comic-book style visualizations of their real-life work. Finally, the children share their own histories by drawing, comic-book style, a past connection with the Moon in their own lives.

Making Moon

Wham! Moon!
In this 1-hour activity, children, ages 8 to 13, portray our Moon's remarkable beginnings through a giant impact. Children color images of the latest scientific data depicting the Moon’s formation to create their own comic strips of our Moon's birth. The children use different-colored balls of Play-Doh® to model the impact between Earth and a small planet 4.5 billion years ago. "Debris" from both "planets" is rolled into a small ball to model how our Moon formed through the process of accretion of smaller particles.

Recipe for a Moon
The Moon is made of cheese... no! Rice Krispies treats! Children ages 8 to 13 discover that the Moon, like Earth, is made up of layers of different materials through this 45-minute activity. They work in teams to make models of the interiors of the Moon and Earth. Common food items are used to construct the cores, mantles, and crusts of both planetary objects.

Family Night

Growing up Moon
Children, ages 8 to 13, visit a sequence of stations to discover how the dark and light areas and craters we see on the Moon's face today record major events of its lifetime. "While they may visit the stations in any order, the stations trace the Moon's 4.5-biliion-year history from "infancy" to the imagined future. The children tie together major events in the Moon's geologic history as a series of comic panels in their Marvel Moon comic books.At each station, the children identify the lunar features that were produced during that era on a Moon map. Allow 2 hours for seven stations. This indoor activity can be combined with the outdoor night viewing, Moon in Action and, if desired, the brief demonstration Mirror Moon.

Infant Moon: Moon Mix!
This station investigates the Moon’s infancy, 4.5 billion years ago, when the Moon was still probably hot enough from its formation for at least its surface to be melted.Children model how an ocean of molten rock — magma — produced the Moon's oldest rocks. Dense materialsin the molten mixture sank, while the least dense materials floated to the top and cooled to form the light-colored areas we see on the Moon today.  Children create a simple model of this process by mixing household materials of different densities in a bottle and allowing to them to settle into separate layers. They decide which materials make the best model for the infant Moon. 

Kid Moon: Splat!
Children model ancient lunar impacts using water balloons. By measuring the diameter of the crater area, children discover that the Moon’s largest impact basins were created by huge asteroids! The huge basins formed on the young Moon, but through processes investigated in Moon Ooze, they later became filled in by the dark maria now visible on the Moon.

Teen Moon: Moon Ooze
Children model how the Moon's volcanic period reshaped its earlier features.  The children consider that the broad, shallow impact basins — which had formed earlier while it was a "kid Moon" — contained cracks through which magma seeped up. A plate in which slits have been cut is used to represent an impact basin and a dish of red-colored water is used to represent the pockets of magma within the Moon’s upper layers. When the model impact basin is pressed into the "magma," " lava" fills in the low areas through the same process that produced the dark patches, or maria, on the Moon. Children may examine a type of Earth rock (named basalt) that is also found on the Moon and that would have been shaped by the processes explored here. This station investigates the Moon's "teen years," when it was one to three billion years old.

Moon's Long History:  Impact Paintings
Pairs of children model how scientists use craters to determine the ages of lunar surface. One child keeps time while the other creates a painting for the other to interpret. Cotton balls coated in different colors of paint are thrown at paper to simulate asteroids striking the lunar surface over time. The children take turns in the time-keeping/painting roles to decipher a mystery: In what order did the "impacts" occur? Which painting has more "impacts"? They learn that scientists can estimate the age of a lunar surface by counting its craters — much like counting candles on a birthday cake!

Grown-up Moon: What Do You See in Today's Moon?
Children use their imaginations to discover an object orcharacter in the Moon! They first read or listen to a cultural story describing a shape identified in the Moon's surface features. Then, they consider how the features formed over the Moon's 4.5-billion-year history and investigate Earth rocks that are similar. Children may examine the types of Earth rocks (named anorthosite, basalt, and breccia) that are also found on the Moon and that would have been shaped by the processes explored here. Finally, they draw their own object or character that they see when they look at the Moon.

Future Moon: The Footsteps of Explorers
Children drop impactors onto layers of graham crackers! The process models how impacts throughout the Moon's history have broken rocks down into a mixture of dust, rocks, and boulders that covers the lunar surface. They consider how the dust will continue to hold a record of human exploration — in the form of astronaut bootprints — for countless years in the future. Children may examine a type of Earth soil ("lunar soil simulant") that is similar to what is found on the Moon's surface and that would have been shaped by the processes explored here. The children create their own records of exploration by making rubbings of their shoes to decorate the library or take home.

Rocks Tell Us the Moon's Story
How do we know about the Moon's long history? The rocks themselves record it. Children can see snapshots of the Moon's history and hold an important artifact of American history with a Lunar Sample Disk. Earth rocks and soil of similar types as the lunar samples may be provided and explored with hands, eyes, noses, and tools! This activity may stand alone, but it is recommended as a station in Growing up Moon.

Moon in Action
In this 30-minute activity, children, ages 7 and up, and their families go outside on a clear evening and view the sky to see the Moon for themselves. Using sky charts and other resources, and possibly in partnership with a local astronomical society, children navigate the Moon’s impact craters, flat plains (maria), and mountains with the naked eye and binoculars or telescopes.

Mirror Moon
In this 10-minute investigation, children ages 8 to 13 investigate the source of the Moon's light. They consider a ball, wrapped in aluminum foil, and experiment with a flashlight to make it appear bright. The children compare the foil-wrapped ball to a Moon globe and discover that the Moon reflects very little of the light the falls on it, but still appears bright. The children construct their own globe of the Moon to take home with them by gluing a map template onto a tennis-ball. This activity is most effective when conducted in a dark area, such as outdoors at night during Moon in Action or in a darkened room in conjunction with Earth's Bright Neighbor.

What If There Was No Moon?

Earth’s Bright Neighbor
Children ages 8 to 13 select from a variety of fruits to construct a scale model of the Moon, Earth, and Sun. After determining the correct sizes and distances for their models, they remove the Moon. They consider what it would be like if the nearby Moon were no longer reflecting the Sun’s light in the nighttime or daytime sky. Allow 30 minutes for this activity.

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.

Lunar Phases:  A Dance Under the Sun
Children ages 10 to 13 perform the lunar phases outdoors, using a Styrofoam ball, sunlight, and the motions of their bodies to model the Moon's phases. Older children (12 to 13) predict future Moon phases. Allow 20–30 minutes for this activity.

Spin! Day and Night
The Moon is the reason for our 24-hour day! In this 45-minute activity, children ages 10 to 13 explore Earth's rotation and the Moon's role. In part A, children use their bodies to model the Earth's daily motions in this kinesthetic exploration. The motion of the Earth about its axis (rotation) is related to the appearance of the sky over the course of the day. In part B, children consider the role of the Moon in slowing Earth's rotation over time; if the Moon didn't exist, Earth might be spinning more quickly, giving us an eight-hour day!

Steady Partner, Steady Seasons
Our Moon acts like training wheels for the Earth, allowing for a stable cycle of seasons. In part A, children ages 11 to 13 model how Earth's tilt creates the seasons. They use their bodies to review the Earth's daily motions before investigating the reason for Earth's seasons in this kinesthetic exploration. The motion of the Earth about its axis (rotation) and in orbit around the Sun (revolution) is related to the appearance of the sky over the course of the day and year. In part B, children model that if its tilt was not stabilized by Moon, Earth's axis would slowly wobble between straight up (0° tilt) to nearly on its side (80° tilt). The resulting seasonal extremes would be unfavorable for life. Allow 1 hour for this activity.

Lunar Phases: A Dance under the Sun
Children ages 10 to 13 perform the lunar phases outdoors, using a Styrofoam ball, sunlight, and the motions of their bodies to model the Moon's phases. Intermediate children (ages 10 to 11) note the names of the phases by singing Phrases for Phases, which is sung to the tune of The Ants Go Marching. Older children (12 to 13) predict future Moon phases. Allow 20-30 minutes for this activity.

Dance of the Moon and Oceans
In part A, children ages 10 to 13 discover how the Moon's gravitational pull causes the level of the ocean to rise and fall twice a day along most coastlines. Six children represent the oceans, solid Earth, Moon, and Sun and move their bodies to show the interactions of these elements. In part B, they consider what the Earth's tides might have been like if there were no Moon. They model the smaller tides that would be produced solely by the Sun. Allow 30 minutes for this activity.

Moon Myths

Moon Mythbusters
Children ages 8 to 13 are faced with a challenge to determine the truth about the Moon’s influence on Earth. They think like a scientist — with reasoning skills and a healthy amount of skeptism — to sort puzzle pieces containing statements about the Moon into two images. The "Far-out Far Side" has incorrect statements about the Moon (urban myths), and "True-Blue Blue Moon" has true facts about the Moon’s influence on Earth and life. Allow 30 minutes for this activity.

Penny Moon
In this 10-minute investigation, children ages 10 to 13 use a penny and a quarter to model that the Moon does indeed spin on its axis as it orbits the Earth. They find that the Moon keeps the same face toward the Earth, but receives illumination from the Sun on all sides in turn.

Zine-making Finale

My Take on the Moon
Children ages 8 to 13 engage their communities about the Moon's formation, changes over time, gravitational connection to Earth, or influence on our culture and urban legends. In this 30-minute activity, they describe — comic-book style — an aspect of the Moon they explored through Explore! Marvel Moon activities. The children create zines: small, self-published magazines inexpensively duplicated on standard letter paper and folded into eight-page booklets. The zines are added to the library's collection and made available for lending.


Last updated
August 16, 2012


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