Your name: Katie Bulgrin
Title of Lesson: Moon Watch
School: Culver City Middle School
Grade Level: 8th Physical Science (Astronomy portion)
The purpose of this lab is to get the students to create a full month of data by observations that they will take on their own. It gets them into doing what they will consider to be long term research, without a major time commitment every day.
The reason for doing this lab is because it is part of the students’ standards that they need to understand that the moon and planets appear bright in the sky not because they are creating light themselves, but rather that the light is reflected from the sun. We want them to understand that the phase of the moon changes due to the fact that the position of the earth/moon/sun system changes.
In what way is your lesson/activity inquiry-based?
The lesson is inquiry based because they are going to be making observations of what happens to their view of the moon as the month progresses. Additionally, every week we asked the students to hypothesize what they thought would happen to the moon the week after. From the completed charts, they then have to try and explain why things change and how the earth/moon/sun relationship plays a part.
About 5 minutes a night for ~35 nights, and one 50 minute period after that.
Moon charting will be done individually, as well as the post questions. The outside moon activities could be done in pairs.
Cost to implement:
Styrofoam balls for day observation activity: approximately $3.36 for 3 – 4” balls at www.amazon.com
Galileoscopes: $30/telescope can be purchased at: https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/products
After this lesson, students should be able to:
-Describe why the moon appears lit in the sky.
-Name all of the different phases of the moon, and in the order they appear: New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter, Waning Crescent, and New Moon again.
-Describe why the moon changes phases.
-Calculate the time from one phase to another.
Introduction / Motivation:
Beginning observation: The introduction to this activity is relatively short. A brief question can be posed to the students asking them if they looked at the sky the night before. What did they see? What do they know about the moon and how it looks from one night to the next? From this, you can tell the students that they will be officially tracking what the moon looks like over the period of five weeks. Each night will give them new data and tell them something different, so they should skip as few nights as possible. The observations will then be checked weekly.
End of observation: You can tell them that now that they have watched the moon go through an entire cycle, they will now use their own data and observations to answer questions about the moon cycle. Ask if they saw any patterns. Compare the predictions of what they thought the moon was going to look like to their actual observations. Did their predictions get any better as time went on? Why?
As stated before, the students will get the assignment during a 30 minute introduction where we talk about what is going to be expected from their observations, and maybe short discussions of what they already know about the moon. We may do periodic (weekly) checks to make sure that the students are keeping up with their charts. The final chart should look something similar to the following:
After the students finish their moon charts, the students label on their drawings the main phases of the moon: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent. From here, they can then approximate how long it takes for the moon to go from new moon to first quarter, and then from that information tell us why we call it the first quarter (it takes approximately one week to get to this phase, and the moon cycle is approximately 29 days). They also figure out how long it takes to get between other phases.
The observation sheets for their observations, and a second set for predictions, as well as a set of about 20 styrofoam balls for the lesson closure activities.
There are two safety issues. 1. The student should not be going out extremely late at night by themselves to go make observations. 2. When doing the daytime observations of the moon, the students should NEVER look into the sun.
The lesson closure is actually the daytime observation of the moon. After they answer their questions about the observations, you can do a simple activity to wrap up why the moon changes phase. Take the students outside on a day when the moon is visible during the daytime. Put a Styrofoam ball on the end of a stick (chopsticks or skewers work well), and tell them that this represents the moon, and their head will represent the Earth. First of all, talk about how the moon has both a day and night just like the Earth, and on these balls, have them point in the place where it is night, and where it is day. Next, have them position the Styrofoam ball around their head until the light shining on it looks like the light you see on the moon. They will see that they have to put the moon in approximately the same place in the sky to have it look similar. Now they can move the ball around their head and they will see the different phases of the moon appear on their moon models. This is then the final tie in to how it’s the positioning of the Sun, Earth and Moon that causes the phases of the moon.
A final part of the lesson, if equipment is available, is looking at the moon through a telescope. It will take patience on the part of the students, but if they can get the moon in the viewer, they will notice how quickly the moon is actually moving in the sky, and can see some of the surface features. This is the part where the students should be reminded to NEVER look at the sun through the viewer.
Is this lesson based upon or modified from existing materials? If yes, please specify source(s) and explain how related:
The idea of doing a moon study is not new, and in fact, is something I did in an astrophysics class in college. With a little googling, you can see that many teachers do this on a simpler level for middle school students.
A Sample drawing moon phases worksheet came from:
Real time moon phase:
Focus on California Physical Science. Prentice Hall, 2008.
The conclusion of daytime moon viewing with the balls came from: Astronomy from the Ground Up “Exploring Lunar Phases with a Daytime Moon”
Moon Charting Student Worksheet
Lesson Implementation Comments
How did the lesson or elements of the lesson work as desired?
I was surprised how many of the students actually kept up with their charting. The weekly checks were definitely helpful as it kept them from forgetting to actually go out and make their observations. We bumped up the level of difficulty for the scholars students asking them to write down the direction that they viewed the moon as well.
How did the lesson or elements of the lesson not work as desired?
If I was going to do this again, I would have had them make predictions weekly on the days when their previous week observations were checked. This way they could have had a full set of observations and predictions to compare between.
What needs to be done or was already done to revise the lesson to make it more effective?
This lesson could be expanded to somehow incorporate eclipses and tides, which were the natural follow up that we did in class.
Other comments about this lesson include…
I feel this lesson is very basic at the moment; however, there are many instances of inquiry that we incorporated. Even though it was so simplistic, the students still learned quite a bit more than I thought they would. The Styrofoam balls on the sticks proved to be a great activity where it seemed that many students finally got the intuition about why the moon changed phases.
Also, this lesson could be started at any point in the moon cycle; however, I think it’s a good idea to start at a new moon. This information can be found with any quick Google search.