Lunar Phases

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8(7) Earth and space. The student knows the effects resulting from cyclical movements of the Sun, Earth, and Moon. The student is expected to:

(B) demonstrate and predict the sequence of events in the lunar cycle.

Vocabulary/ Preliminary Concepts:

Rotation—the Earth rotates (spins) on its axis, completing one turn every 24 hours

Revolution—the Earth revolves (orbits) around the Sun, completing one orbit every year, and the Moon revolves around the Earth, completing one orbit every month

Scale of the Earth-Moon System—the Earth is 4 times wider than the Moon, and not very close.  If the Earth was a basketball, the Moon would be a tennis ball, about 23 feet away

Activities for Teaching Lunar Phases

  • Moon Observations
    Students record data about Moon phases on a data sheet over the course of one complete Moon cycle (approximately 28 days).
  • Oreo Phases
    Students will recreate the lunar phases using the frosting from Oreo® cookies.  Round cream cheese crackers can also be used if cookies are not an option.
  • How Far is the Moon
    Students gain a better perspective on the relationship between the size and distance of the Moon by creating a scale model.
  • Lunar Phases: A Dance with the Sun
    This activity creates a model with the real Moon and Sun in the sky to help participants discover the real reason for the lunar phases.
  • Graphing Moon Phases
    This activity, developed by teacher Ashley White and revised by LPI, provides graphs and data for the percentage of the Moon that is illuminated.
  • Golf-ball Phases
    Students explore the dynamics of lunar phases to develop an understanding of the relative positions of our Moon, Earth, and Sun that cause the phases of the Moon as viewed from Earth. Using a golf ball glowing under the ultraviolet light of a “blacklight” makes it easier to see the actual phase of the Moon. 
  • Paper Plate Phases
    Students use paper plates with various phases to create a three dimensional model of the lunar phases relative to the Earth and Sun, as both an assessment of their understanding and to continue to build a conceptual model through kinesthetic activities.
  • Moon Phases Cards
    This powerpoint is of images that can be printed and cut up to invite students to match the names of the phases and the images, and also arrange them in chronological order.  Created by STEP member Kira Arter.
  • The Moon Dance
    The students create kinesthetic models of the Sun and Moon in the sky to better understand the relationship between lunar phases and the time of day. Related video by Meredith Harris is at


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