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Main Curriculum Tie:
Background For Teachers:
A star, such as the sun, burns gases that give off heat and light and a planet reflects sunlight. The moon is different from the sun and similar to the earth since it is made of rock and dust, has no light of its own to shine, and is only bright in the night sky because it reflects the sun's light. When we see the moon at night, what we actually see is the reflection of the sun's light on the moon. The shape of the moon appears to change at different times of the month, gradually moving through its phases from a small crescent moon to a half moon to a full moon. Of course, the shape of the moon doesn't really change; the phases of the moon are caused by the moon moving around the Earth so that we see more and more of the portion that is illuminated by the sun.
Student Prior Knowledge:
Intended Learning Outcomes:
Step 2. Share with students the book, The Moon Seems to Change, by Franklyn Branley. Tell students that each of them will be doing some observations of the moon at home during the evening. Observations will need to take place about the same time and from the same location every time. These observations will need to include drawings of what the moon looks like. They will need to keep track of their observations for almost a month. Pass out the calendar. Explain how each day has space for a small drawing of what they see. Any questions they might have should be listed on the back of their calendar.
Step 3. Show the students the strip of dark butcher paper you have put up on the wall like a "time line." Explain that each day, one student will take a turn recording observations from the night before on the paper. (Divide the job so everyone has an opportunity as the month progresses.)This will provide a time line of the moon watching they do.
Step 4. As the lunar month progresses, take time each day to discuss what the "Moon Watch" chart looks like. They might also want to write down any questions they have underneath as the days go by. Questions might include such things as "Why does it change shape?" "If the moon is a sphere, why does it disappear and change so much?" "Where does the rest of it go?" "Why is the moon moving in the sky?" Lead students to make predications about the moon changes. (Some possible predictions might be that the moon "grows and shrinks," or "disappears".) Record all possibilities on the board.
Step 5. As pictures are drawn and questions are asked, encourage students to do research on the moon. Try to provide a center where materials are available to read, and find information.
Step 6. When the month is almost over, ask them if they can predict what shape the moon will have the next night. Discuss the next day if predictions were correct.
Step 7. At the conclusion of the activity, bring students together to look at the Moon Watch time line. Discuss how the moon changes. Encourage students to share information they have learned from their research and investigations. Discuss where the moon was in the sky during observations. Does this help us know that the Earth is rotating on its axis and makes things appear to move across the sky? Ask why there is a time when the moon is not visible in the sky at all. (The reason is that the side of the moon facing Earth is completely unlit by the sun.)
Step 8. If students have not discovered that the moon in phases occurs because it is orbiting the Earth, you can demonstrate briefly with models such as you used in "Bouncing Sunlight." There are also great web sites with excellent visual aids to show students how the moon travels and the earth orbits.
Strategies For Diverse Learners:
Students could research the legends of ancient cultures about the moon and report their findings in some way to the group. A report, a pamphlet, or collection are visual possibilities. Others might include puppets, role-play or research report. The project needs to include some aspect of the moon changing and reasons these civilizations used to explain the phenomena.
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