Lunar PhasesSTEP Participant home page
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 http://youtu.be/qyzda9hSl7Q.
Probes on the Cause for Lunar Phases
These drafts were written to help delve more deeply into the explanations and descriptions for why we have lunar phases; while the style is similar to other probes, these have not been through the extensive testing done for NSTA’s assessment probes.
- Moon Phases Resources
Websites, activities, and materials that may be useful
- Moon Phase Sheets
This pdf file has a full cycle of images of the Moon along with the name for each phase. Sheets can be printed and arranged in order into a full cycle, to allow students to see the number of days in the cycle, the gradual changes, and more. Or the names can be removed and students invited to name the phase, as a set of flash cards.
These were created for use in workshops; feel free to borrow and alter the images and information for your own workshops
- Vocabulary, misconceptions, and memory aids for seasons, phases, and tides