Explore! Marvel Moon

Grown-up Moon: What Do You See in Today's Moon?

Adapted from What Do You See in the Moon?, Family Space Day – Moon, Lunar and Planetary Institute.


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.

What's the Point?

  • Scientists study the Moon's rocks and surface features to learn how it formed and changed over its long "lifetime."
  • The features we see on the Moon's surface today were formed over its 4.5-billion-year history.
  • Impact craters and basins, caused when asteroids or comets collided with the Moon, cover the Moon's surface.
  • Large impact basins formed early in the Moon's history, then were later filled in by lava flows to form the dark patches — maria — we see today.
  • The Moon has some of the same types of rocks that are found on Earth. The rocks have certain properties, such as color.
  • Cultures throughout history have identified shapes in the Moon's features and told stories about them.


The following materials are for one What Do You See in the Moon? activity set and will serve approximately 10 children working in teams of two to three.

  • Books or other media that share stories about the Moon and what different cultures see when they look at the Moon. For example:
  • Optional: Computer, speakers, and access to the Internet for listening to online cultural stories
  • Optional:  A live storyteller reading or performing Moon myths
  • Optional: Images of features that different cultures see in the Moon
  • Optional: 1 sample each of anorthosite, basalt, and breccia, ordered from a natural science catalog (optional):
    • 1 sample of Earth basalt ordered from a natural science catalog; a flood basalt hand specimen is available from WARD'S Natural Science
    • 1 sample of Earth anorthosite, ordered from a natural science catalog; an anorthosite hand specimen is available from WARD'S Natural Science
    • 1 sample of breccia, ordered from a natural science catalog; a volcanic breccia hand specimen is available from WARD'S Natural Science
  • Moon Map
  • Grown-up Moon: What Do You See in Today's Moon? station sign
  • Grown-up Moon: What Do You See in Today's Moon? children's guide
  • Art materials such as crayons, colored pencils, and markers

For each child:

For the facilitator:


  • If desired, set this station up on a small stage or in the story corner of the library. Have a storyteller read stories from the suggested books, or invite a professional storyteller to describe what shape — such as a tree or a rabbit — his or her culture identifies in the features of the Moon.
  • Optional: provide the computer and Internet access as a listening station for cultural stories about the Moon's appearance.
  • Print the images of the Moon and shapes seen in its features and spread them out on the table.
  • Place the books, rock samples, art materials, Moon map, and children’s guide at the station.


Described in the children's guide.


The children may recognize their own patterns in the Moon or they may identify those described in cultural stories. By comparing fun shapes and personal stories to the actual topographical features in the Moon, they should recognize that the Moon has a science story to tell, as well. Younger children should be able to recognize that the large dark circles are maria or "seas" after their mistaken identification by early astronomers.

A Little Background for the Facilitator

Many cultures through time have developed stories about the features they observed on our Moon. One is the story that rabbits live on the Moon with a Katsura tree. Some people see an outline of a rabbit on the Moon, others see a dog, and still others see a man in the Moon, a crab, a lady knitting or reading a book, a man resting under a tree, a frog, a lizard...

The Moon is covered with light and dark areas. The light colored areas are the oldest part of the Moon's surface — they have many craters and are called the "cratered highlands." This part of the Moon's crust formed from a cooling magma ocean soon after the Moon formed 4.5 billion years ago! The basins were formed by BIG impacts early in the Moon's history. Later, lava filled these basins and cooled. The dark-colored plains (maria) we see are made of a fine-grained, dark, volcanic rock called basalt — the same rock type as found on Earth's ocean floors and the same type that makes up the islands of Hawaii.


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