Invite the children to make Moon observations. Provide each child with a paper plate and markers. Have them write their names across the top edge of the plate.
Assign each child a “Moon viewing date” to write across the bottom edge of the plate. Assign viewings for every other night for approximately 5 weeks, so that the children observe distinct changes in the phases of the Moon, and so that the cycle begins to repeat. Facilitators may want to keep the plates, providing the plate to the child on the day of his/her viewing.
On the day assigned to each child, he or she will observe the Moon and carefully color the plate to show how much of the Moon was illuminated and how much was dark.
Each week, have the children share what they observed on the nights of their viewings. Tape the plates to a wall in the order of observations. Once several (or all) of the plates are in place, invite the children to discuss their observations and conclusions.
As an extension, share the Phases for Phrases song with the children and use the plates to identify and learn the names of the phases.See “Fruit for Phases” as a follow-up activity to explore the cause of lunar phases.
About 15–30 minutes each week for 5 weeks.
Connections to the National Science Standard(s)
Standard A (grades K–4): The children will discover the Moon phase cycle through a simple investigation that involves Understand the explanation of the pattern of movement of the Moon across the sky, as well as the observable cycle of changes in the Moon's shape within a month.
Standard A (grades 5–8): The children will discover the Moon phase cycle through a simple investigation that involves Understand the scientific explanation of how objects in the solar system have regular and predictable motion that explains such phenomena as phases of the Moon and eclipses.