Lunar and Planetary Institute

Growing up Moon
EXPLORE! To the Moon and Beyond with NASA's LRO Mission

Growing up Moon


Children, ages 8 to 13, visit a sequence of stations 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-billion-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.

Station 1: 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. 

Station 2: 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.

Station 3: Teen Moon: Moon OozeChildren 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.

Station 4: Moon's Long History: Impact paintingsPairs 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!

Station 5: Grown-up Moon: What Do You See in Today's 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. 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.

Station 6: 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.

Station 7: 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!

Optional activities to include as stations:

Optional Station 7: 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.

Optional Station 8: Mirror Moon – Children 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.

Optional Station 9: Crater Creations: Moon– Asteroids and comets have impacted the Moon throughout its history to form the many craters on its surface. Children experiment to create impact craters and examine the associated features. The children observe images of lunar craters and explore how the mass, shape, velocity, and angle of impactors affects the size and shape of the crater. This activity is from the Explore! To the Moon and Beyond! module.

The activities in this module can be done in many different ways. They can be facilitator-lead and undertaken sequentially by the entire audience, or they can be set up as stations that are visited by small groups or individuals. Maps of the Moon, the station signs showing the period in lunar history, and Earth rock samples — and if you include The Rocks Speak, the lunar samples — serve to tie the different stations into a story of the Moon's history.

If stations are set up, it is recommended that an adult or older child be present at each station to serve as a host and to prompt the children's thinking. Station hosts may also demonstrate and/or assist younger children in completing the activity. Each activity has background information for the facilitator.

  • Locate 7 areas that are accessible by groups of two to three children (provide additional areas for optional stations).
  • Label each station with the signs noting the timeframe in the Moon’s history (provided with each activity). Place the appropriate materials at the station, including the Earth rock or soil sample and Moon map referenced in each activity.
  • Divide the children into teams of two to three; have them circulate from station to station.
  • Provide the appropriate comic panel at each station and invite the children to complete them as they rotate. Have a selection of art materials, such as colored pencils, crayons, and markers, available at each station. If possible, allow enough room at the tables for the children to fill in the comic panels. Alternatively, supply clipboards.
  • As the children finish the stations invite them back to a common area where they can share their drawings, notes, and discoveries.

Optional: Post a "vocabulary wall": a chalk or white board, or poster paper and markers, to record terms that come up as they visit the stations.

Become familiar with the background information.

Use the shopping list to purchase materials. Provide garbage bags or disposable plastic smocks for the children to wear at the stations. If desired, furnish each child with a piece of breccia, anorthosite, or basalt to take home by ordering "bulk packs" from a natural science catalog (further ordering information is specified within each activity description). If your institution has a gift shop, consider having these rock types available for purchase there during your program.

Target the specified age group with carefully worded advertising. Note that the children must be between the ages of 8-13, able to read, record measurements, and use critical thinking in order to participate. Consider offering activities specifically designed for younger children, such as the Family Space Days Moon activities, as a concurrent program or as stations alongside Growing up Moon.

Display several books or other visual aids about the Moon in a place where the children can page through them before and after the activity. Provide a computer with speakers and Internet access to show the online videos. Possible selections are listed in the resources section and include:

The Moon
Seymour Simon, 2003, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, ISBN: 0689835639
An exploration of the Moon with fantastic images for children ages 7 to 10.

Earth and the Moon
Ron Miller, 2003, Twenty First Century Books, ISBN: 0761323589
Written for young teens, this book examines the formation and evolution of the Earth and Moon.

Exploring the Moon
Rebecca Olien, PowerKids Press, 2007, ISBN 1404234667
The Moon's beginning, layers, craters and more are explained in this easy-to-read book for 9–12 year olds. Images to illustrate the author's topic accompany the text.

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. 

Jump Into Science: Moon
Steve Tomecek, National Geographic Children's Books, 2005, ISBN 0792251237
Children go on a journey with a bug and a cat to discover the Moon’s scientific history and concepts. This is a great book for ages 9–12.

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.

Lunar Science Cards
Phlare's Inc., 2005, ISBN 0974114790
Children ages 9–12 can learn about the Moon’s history, geology, geography and physical features with these question and answer cards.

Earth's Moon Lithograph (NASA educational product number LG–2005–12–568–HQ)

NASA eClips Our World: The Rock Cycle
Discover how the rock cycle on the Moon is similar to how rocks change on Earth, or even on other planets! Suitable for children ages 8 to 10.

Discovery Channel's Bad Universe: Asteroid Impact Simulation
Astronomer Phil Plait assists with a scientific investigation, where planetary scientist Dan Durda sets off explosives to model the explosion caused by an asteroid impact. Appropriate for ages 8 and up.


Have the children arrange their comic panels into chronological order to depict the evolution of the Moon over time. Instruct the children to add the station comic panels as the next pages in the Marvel Moon comic book. Have them clip the book together at the upper left corner. Alternatively, have them tape the panels together as one, long comic strip!

  • What major events occurred on the Moon over the last 4.5 billion years? What features did they leave on the Moon's surface? The infant Moon had a magma ocean that formed a light-colored crust that we can still see on the Moon today. The "kid" Moon experienced large impacts, and volcanism filled in the large impact basins with lava The lava from the Moon's "teen" years  cooled to form the dark-colored areas on we see on the Moon today (the maria). Impacts have made many craters on the Moon’s surface. Astronauts explored six areas on the Moon and left their footprints there.
  • What shape did the children find in the Moon's features?
  • Do the children want to explore the Moon further?
  • What is the future of the Moon in their lives?  Would anyone like to be a scientist or an astronaut? A poet or an artist?

If they haven't already done so, invite the children to explore the Moon for themselves through the night-viewing activity Moon in Action.


Last updated
May 21, 2012

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