Lunar and Planetary Institute

Family Night
EXPLORE! To the Moon and Beyond with NASA's LRO Mission

Family Night

Growing up Moon
Children, ages 8 to 13, visit a sequence of stations to trace how the Moon's history shaped its surface into recognizable features. While they may visit the stations in any order, the stations trace the Moon's 4.5-biliion-year history. 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 1 1/2 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!
Children model how an ocean of molten rock — magma — produced the Moon's oldest rocks. This station investigates the Moon's infancy, 4.5 billion years ago, when the Moon was still probably hot enough from its formation to be at least partially melted. The most dense materials sank and the least dense materials floated to the top of the magma ocean. The light-colored areas on the Moon are made of the least dense materials.

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 mare now visible on the Moon.

Teen Moon: Moon Ooze
Children create a miniature lunar landscape and model the Moon's volcanic period — during the Moon's "teen years" — over a billion or more years ago. Wet sponges are used to represent the Moon’s pockets of magma within its upper layers. When the model landscape is pressed onto the sponges, "lava" fills in the low areas through the same process that produced the dark patches, or maria, on the Moon.

Moon's Long History: Impact Paintings
In Crater Creations, 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 comets and 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 the Moon?
Children use their imaginations to discover an object or character 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. 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. 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.


Last updated
May 5, 2011

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