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at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
To the Moon and Beyond From Apollo to the Future

Crater Creations: Moon


In the 30–45-minute Crater Creations: Moon activity, teams of children ages 8 to13 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 has been modified from Impact Craters, an activity in Exploring the Moon: A Teacher's Guide with Activities for Earth and Space Sciences, NASA Education Product EG-1997-10-116-HQ by J. Taylor and L. Martel. The guide offers a math- and graph-rich version of this activity.

What's the Point?


For each team of 3 to 5 children:

For the facilitator:



1. Show the images of lunar craters to the children and invite them to describe what they see.

2. Divide the children into groups of 3 to 5 and have each group stand by a box. Invite them to begin experimenting by having them each select one impactor to drop and determining from what heights they will drop them (encourage them to not throw their impactors). What do they think will happen when an impactor — a heavy object — is dropped into one of the boxes? Have each team drop their impactors one at a time.

After each crater creation, ask them to carefully remove their impactors to make the craters clearly visible. (In reality, impactors are completely — or almost completely — obliterated upon impact; any remains of the impactor are called "meteorites.")

3. Now, taking turns, let the children experiment with creating craters! Have each group conduct an experiment by changing one variable to see how it affects impact crater size. Experiments could explore different impactor sizes, weights, distances dropped, or angles of impact. For example, one group could drop the same impactor from different heights (modeling different velocities of the incoming impactors), and another group could experiment by dropping different-sized impactors from the same height. If the children want to experiment with angles of impact they will need to throw the impactors at the box; caution should be used to make sure no one is standing on the opposite side of the box in case the impactors miss. Invite the children to predict what will happen in their experiments. Have the children measure and note the width and depth of each impact crater formed in their experiments.


Have the children reflect on what they observed and the images of lunar craters.