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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:

(C) relate the position of the Moon and Sun to their effect on ocean tides.

Vocabulary/ Preliminary Concepts:

Before students can understand the effects of the Sun and Moon on tides, they should understand:

  • the definition of tides: students often confuse tides with waves
  • the cause of lunar phases
  • the motions of the Earth and Moon
  • that gravity is a force that depends both on mass and also on distance

Activities for Teaching Tides

  • Match the Vocabulary Terms
    Ten vocabulary terms for lunar phases and tides can be sorted and matched to ten descriptions of the terms. This can be implemented in groups, individually, or in a variety of ways.  A word document is provided so that it can be edited by teachers.
  • Dance of the Moon and Oceans
    In this kinesthetic activity, students model how the Moon's gravitational pull causes the level of the ocean to rise and fall twice a day along most coastlines.  A revised version of this activity that includes spring and neap tides is available here.  A video (95 Meg) of this activity is available here.
  • The Moon’s Relation to Ocean Tides
    This activity is designed to show students the relationship between ocean tides and the lunar movements. STEP Participant Jennifer Brian has created a simpler tide graph and data set that may simplify this activity. Recent tides data is available by state location here but states along the Gulf will have more complex patterns that may not be as easy to relate to lunar phases.
  • Moon Illumination Graphing Activity
    This activity, developed by teacher Ashley White, provides graphs and data for the percentage of the Moon that is illuminated, for the same dates as the above activity on tides. She has also provided graphics and labels that the students use to label the lunar phases for the tides graph and the illumination graph.
  • Video of Tides in Bay of Fundy
    This makes an excellent introductory hook to this topic; video provided by Doreen Jarvis
  • Tide Wheel
    This manipulative by the National Weather Service has diagrams that connect the lunar phases to the tides.


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