Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore! Marvel Moon

Loony Lunar Phase

Overview

Children ages 8 to 11 discover the Moon's influence on our culture through this 30-minute, light-hearted investigation of lunar phases. The children hear a story, song, or (silly or serious) poem that celebrates the Moon's different phases. They recreate the shapes of the lunar phases using the frosting from Oreo® cookies, and then they place them in correct order to reveal the repeating pattern. As they eat the cookies, they consider how our culture would differ without the Moon changing shape in the sky over time. They use words inspired by the Moon to write a short poem.

Materials

For the group:

SkyTellers: "Moon Phases" Chapter
The activities and resources found here will help children further explore the phases of our Moon after they have listened to the Native American tale of "The Girl Who Married the Moon" and the science story.Appropriate for ages 5 and up.

World Tales of the Moon

For each child:

For the facilitator:

Preparation

Facilitator's Note: This activity is not meant to model why the Moon has phases, only to assist in connecting the names and shapes, and to help the children remember the order. Attempts to model the three-dimensional nature of Moon phases with these two dimensions may lead to confusion.
Although there are other activities that place the phases in a circular formation, this may confuse children if they attempt to conceptualize the location of the Sun or Earth in relation to the Moon's orbit. We recommend that children first learn to correctly match the names with the appearances of each phase and to place them in order.

For very young children, you may want to model only four Moon phases (new moon, first quarter Moon, full Moon, and third quarter Moon). Older children should be able to model all eight phases.

The Moon's phases are a natural example of a recurring predictable cycle. They have been used as a calendar by many different cultures throughout history.

Activity

1. Invite the children to describe what the Moon looks like, and how it changes shapes.

2. Explain to the children that they will be using Oreo cookies to draw the phases and to put them into order. Demonstrate how to twist and open a cookie so that the frosting is all on one side.

3. Provide six cookies, a paper towel, a plastic spoon or knife to each child, and invite him or her to follow the pictures shown in either the Cookie Moon P​h​a​s​e​s or one month from the Calendar Moon Phases. (Each cookie should be able to make two Moon phases, but some will break, and some of the frosting will go "missing.")

4. Invite the children to twist their cookies open and scrape the Oreo cookies to illustrate Moon phases, and ask them to arrange cookies on top of the Cookie Moon Phases or Calendar Moon Phases in order.

5. Read one or more of the books while the children work.

6. Optional: Sing a song about lunar phases! Hand out copies of Phrases for Phases and sing the song together to the tune of "The Ants Go Marching." Alternatively, lead the children in singing "When the light is on the right" (sung to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it"):

When the light is on the right it's getting bright (snap, snap)
When the light is on the right it's getting bright (snap, snap)
When the light is on the right,
Then the Moon is getting bright
When the light is on the right it's getting bright (snap, snap)

7. Have the children eat their cookies and consider what Earth would be like without the Moon's light. Discuss the cultural artifacts that would be missing in a world without the lunar phases.

Conclusion

Invite the children to complete the Moon in My Own Words poem and add it as the next page in the Marvel Moon comic book by clipping the book together at the upper left corner.

Facilitator's Note: The Moon in My Own Words poetry template directs children to write a cinquain (pronounced sing-keyn or sing-keyn), a short poem of five lines.

For children ages 8 to 9, announce the next activity, Moon Mythbusters. Ask children 10 and older to return to discover the reason for the Moon's phases in Lunar Phases: A Dance under the Sun.