Moon Phases, Eclipses and Seasons NGSS MS ESS1-1

In the Moon Phases, Eclipses and Seasons mini unit, students develop models of moon phases, eclipses and seasons with flashlights, tennis balls, globes and their heads! Using their own observations, students make sense of these events and then write a postcard to share what they learned.

Extension activities ask students to research how cultural groups (Lakota people, Ancient Egyptians or others) use observations of the sun, moon phases and stars, eclipses and seasons to guide their lives and activities.

Anchor Phenomenon Ideas: Share a photo of the moon in the daytime sky with students. Then, provide a pile of different size balls and flashlights and challenge them to model what they see. If they end up with more questions than answers, that's OK! Use those questions to make connections throughout your unit.

Share this image of summer and winter solstice and let your students observe, discuss and question.

Make it Relevant: Encourage kids to look up and determine the moon phase each day. Look for information on upcoming solar eclipses and lunar Eclipses to share with students as they model these events in class.

Tips and Tricks: Give students the space, freedom and equipment to create that "aha" moment for themselves as they build models of moon phases, eclipses and seasons. Some kids may spend entire class periods trying to see the phases of the moon on a ping pong ball and others will prefer to study a two dimensional model of a solar eclipse. Encourage kids to really see and understand what is happening without the pressure of arbitrary deadlines or the end of a class period.

It is very helpful to have bright flashlights (and/or lamps) and a darker space for students to create models. Turning off overhead lights and pulling blinds is usually enough to create a good viewing space.

As students work to visualize the moon phases, simulations like this one can be helpful. To the right is an example of a student's depiction of moon phases.

Below is an example of the change in solar energy from summer to winter. Students may first think that the greater spread of light in winter equals a greater amount of total energy. Help reframe their thinking by reminding them that the total amount of heat energy from the sun is the same - in summer, that heat energy is more concentrated and creates a warmer climate.

Student packet question three - Draw a diagram of moon phases that makes sense to you.

Extension Activities: The best way to learn about how other cultures integrate astronomy into their daily lives is to reach out and connect with people in your community. We encourage you to send an email or make a phone call to local experts and invite them into your classroom to share their knowledge.

Native Sky Watchers are "building community around the native star knowledge" and is also an excellent resource for educators.

Enrichment: What would the seasons be like in your location if Earth had no tilt? Challenge kids to describe what changes would occur and to support their reasoning with evidence.