Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sun and the Solar Eclipse Study: The Phases of the Moon

Here's what I've showed you of our Sun and the Solar Eclipse study so far:
If you're using the NASA Eclipse Activity Guide as a spine (and you should, even if there's not an eclipse near you--it makes an EXCELLENT spine for a study of the Solar System!), then this is Lesson 10: Waxing and Waning. Here is where you learn about the moon's orbit, the visible phases of the moon, and you preview how eclipses work, although you'll cover this in more detail in a future lesson.

The NASA Eclipse Activity Guide has a big build for the phases of the moon demo--foamboard, TWENTY balls and TWENTY skewers, etc.--but I'm going to tell you what you actually need:
  1. lamp
  2. human
  3. ball that's around baseball/tennis ball-sized, painted half-black and half-white
Syd painted a glass Christmas ornament from my holiday crafting stash half black and half white, and when we were done with this demo I put it back in the stash. We can still paint it something cute for Christmas.

To demonstrate the phases of the moon, first set up your lamp near a wall, then put the kid several feet in front of it. You don't want it to blind her, and you want to help her remember that the distances are very vast here. Just make sure that it's warm and bright enough on her face that she can't lose track of it. The lamp is her sun.

She is the Earth.

You hold the moon, and you ALWAYS hold it so that the white side faces the wall with the lamp (don't think about facing the lamp exactly, or you'll end up tilting the moon's orbit and the demo won't work as well). You're going to orbit the kid, always with the white side of the moon facing that wall. As with the distance between the kid and the lamp, don't feel like you have to orbit the kid too closely--the closer the moon gets to her, in fact, the less she'll see the phases cleanly. Stand back a bit as you orbit.

You also need to remember that the moon's orbit is about 5 degrees off center, so the moon isn't going to go directly between the kid's face and the lamp--that would cause a solar eclipse, and we're not going to have one of those right now, except maybe to bring it up at the end.

The kid should stand still, but should turn in place so that she's always facing the moon. I like to start with the full moon. Hold the moon where it should be, make sure the kid has rotated so she's looking straight at it, and ask her what she can see--it should be the white circle of the full moon. Have her verbalize where her perspective is on earth looking at the moon, and where the sun is in relation to the earth and the moon. 

Walk the moon to a waxing quarter moon, make sure the kid is rotating with you, and have her observe the moon's phase, her perspective on the earth, and the sun in relation to the earth and the moon. Repeat this for every quarter until you're back at the beginning. 

There is no way to make moon phases any clearer.

I like the kids to hear the same information in different ways, the better to contextualize it and strengthen all those neural pathways, so we also watched two moon videos from one of my favorite YouTube channels, CrashCourse--

--and this simpler video on moon phases from BrainPOP:

For a craft/snack, Syd then made us this model of the phases of the moon out of Oreos:

I had intended to add a one-month nightly moon observation to this, and it would have been amazing, but we just didn't keep up with it. An activity for another day, then!

Here are some more lunar activities that I'm saving for another day:

And here are some more of the reading/viewing resources that we used as daily assigned reading, family read-alouds, family movie nights, or just to sit invitingly on our home shelves and tempt someone into exploring them:

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