Teacher demonstrations and small group activities help students understand the rotation of the Earth and the appearance of movement of other bodies in the sky.
- Playground ball
- Poster board
- Markers or crayons
- Moon review kit8
Eyewitness Books: Astronomy, by Kristen Lippincott; ISBN 0-75660656-X
Space: A Nonfiction Companion to Midnight on the Moon, by Mary Pope Osborne; ISBN 0-
Background for Teachers
When Earth and moon rotate, they turn to the left. This is easily
remembered by asking the students to place their hand over the heart
as when saying the "Pledge of Allegiance," then push with that hand
toward the shoulder closest to the hand, thus turning the individual
toward the left.
The teacher should understand that the moon and Earth do not
rotate on the same plane. This is why eclipses are much less frequent
than the students might think.
Using the technology of space travel we have been able to see
both Earth and the moon from space. In this activity we will help the
students understand better what astronauts and astronomers see by
using technology and models.
Remember to turn the flash off on cameras for this activity,
otherwise you loose the shadows we are looking for.
Intended Learning Outcomes
1. Use science process and thinking skills.
2. Manifest scientific attitudes and interests.
Invitation to Learn
Using a "Moon in My Room" lamp, ask the students to name the
phases of the moon as it moves through the eight phases of lights on
the lamp. This is a great attention getter. The students will be excited
to learn more.
After demonstrating the "Moon in My Room" lamp, pass out paper
cups and a piece of paper to make a paper version of their own moon
Use the paper cup to make eight circles on a piece of blank paper.
Then draw each of the phases on the different circles and cut them out.
Fold the circles in half vertically. Glue the left half of the first phase to
the right half of the next phase and so on until you have glued all the
way around. One of the great features of this little gem is that it works
as well upside down as right side up. They now have their own moon
Have the students make a pocket for their moon review kit in their
Which View of the Moon?
- Explain that we are going to build a model of Earth and the
- After dividing the class into small groups, ask each group to
invent a constellation or choose a constellation they already
know and draw it on a poster or large piece of paper.
- Have the students retrieve their moon review kit from the
invitation to learn activity above and keep it with them for
- Move the desks away from the center of your room to make
enough space in your classroom for a large circle of students.
- Have half, (or one third if you have a large group), of the class
stand in the middle of the room, in a circle facing outward. This
is Earth. Make the circle as small as possible. Place a globe of
Earth in the center of the circle on a table or tall cart, or hang it
from the ceiling.
- Put eight chairs in a circle around and facing Earth. If possible
these should be about ten feet from Earth. These chairs mark
the path of the moon.
- Ask one child to represent the moon, or the teacher may take
this place being taller than the standing students on Earth so
the sun can shine on it during all phases.
- Invite the rest of the class to hold the "constellation" posters
around the outside of the room.
- Turn on a desk lamp or spotlight to be the sun. Turn off other
lights and darken the room as much as possible. The sun and
moon should not be in the same plane. Discuss what would
happen if they were. Explain that we would have eclipses more
regularly if this were the case.
- Invite one student to use a camera to document what Earthlings
- When everyone is in place, ask the students to take time to
predict what they think they will see.
- Have the "moon" start at the chair closest to the sun.
Remember, the moon should face Earth. You might have the
"moon" record what it sees of Earth with a digital camera each
time it moves to a new chair, remembering that the moon
would always look only toward Earth. If the teacher is serving
as "moon", a student may be asked to take the pictures.
- The "Earthling" students should now move their circle to the
left a full rotation taking time to find and compare what they
see with the moon review kit what they are seeing of the moon
after each rotation.
- The "moon" should move one chair to the left of Earth in its
orbit for each rotation of Earth. Repeat steps 12 and 13 a few
times. It may not be necessary for Earth to rotate eight times
before having the groups trade places.
- Students who were "on Earth" should trade places with
constellations and the moon.
- After everyone has had the opportunity to see the view from
both Earth and in space have the students return desks to their
places and allow time to record what was seen. Encourage
creativity in the kind of entry: pop-ups, drawings, written and
- Invite a few students to share and discuss with the class what
they have recorded.
- For review on another day, share the pictures taken with the
camera and discuss and compare with journal entries.
- Use a camera to take pictures from one of the constellations.
What do you think an alien might see?
- Use the digital camera in video mode on Earth without stopping
after each rotation of Earth to get a different feeling for the
- Moon dance, invite everyone to hold the ping-pong ball from
"The Earth is Flat" activity with only one source of light in the
room at the side of the room, and ask them to turn around in a
circle while watching the ball. Have them record what they saw
in their science journal with pictures, words or pop-ups.
- Invite children with special needs to be the one to turn the sun
on and off at the times designated by the teacher, or make sure
they are part of one of the constellations. If they need to be
active, have them be a comet passing through the solar system
with a flashlight. Those who have trouble writing in a journal
may use a tape recorder to record their ideas and then have a
parent transcribe them (home connection).
- If you ask a Chinese person when their birthday is or a Muslim
when the next Ramadan or Aid al Adha starts, what kind of
calendar would they use to give you an answer? Discuss the
fact that many cultures have used and continue to use a lunar
- Show the class how to make "pop-up" entries in their journal.
Encourage some of the entries to be pop-ups. Allow for
creativity and time to finish and share with the class using the
- Use a protractor with a straw attached along the flat side of the
protractor, and a string tied through the center of the straw
side with a weight at the end of the string as a measurement
tool, sight along the straw and mark where the string is on the
protractor. Keep a journal of the moon for one month or more.
Each night at the same time of night, from the new moon to
full moon, observe the moon using the protractor to note the
angle in the sky for the location of the moon and which way
the observer is facing, (a magnetic compass may be needed).
On at least two nights go out two or three times to note that on
any given night the moon seems to stay with the constellations,
but on different nights it follows different constellations. After
the full moon, observations will be more successful in the early
morning. What path do you think the moon will follow? Does
the moon track across the sky from east to west along the same
path the sun does? What is the overall pattern of the moon's
path across the sky in one month, 2 months, 6 months? Are
those paths the same?
- Ask the students to share with others at their table how the
appearance of what we see from the moon, from Earth and from
the stars is different and which one we might call "real". How
does this help them understand what we see on Earth?
- Use the "Moon in My Room" to show different phases for
review during different times of the day and the year.
Waters, J. K., (2007-12-00). Social Studies Teachers' Perspectives of Technology Integration.
T.H.E. Journal, Volume 34 (Number 12), Pages 41-44
Menko Johnson, an instructional technologist at San Jose State
University, believes that successful synchronizing of technology in
the classroom puts the teaching before the gadgetry and will benefit
both the teacher and the student.
Starkman, N., (2007-06-00). Sound Solutions. T.H.E. Journal, Volume 34 (Number 6), Page 22
Poor classroom acoustics have more to do with poor learning than
one might suspect. A good sound system can do a great deal to help
both the students and the teacher.