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Teaching About the Earth's Moon: Lesson Plan

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: Pamela Rice-Linn • updated: 7/12/2012

Songs are written about it. Couples gaze up at it. Scientists study it. Kids are curious about it. So now it's time to answer some questions. Use the Earth's Moon lessons to learn more about this neighboring celestial body.

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    For thousands of years, the lights they see in the night sky have fascinated people. Our moon is the closest to us and therefore its light appears to be the largest. Why does it look different every night? Is it like the Earth? The Earth’s Moon Lessons will help students learn more about this light in the sky.

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    1. Students will learn vocabulary related to the Moon.thumbnail-2.aspx 

    2. Students will understand why the Moon seems to change shape.

    3. Students will compare the Earth to the Moon.

    4. The students will learn unusual facts about the Moon.

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    New Vocabulary

    1.The Moon is a natural satellite of the Earth. A satellite is a celestial body that travels around a larger body.

    2. The dips or pits on the Moon’s surface are called craters. This word comes from a Greek word meaning “bowl”. Large rocks hitting the Moon cause craters.

    3. The Moon reflects light from the sun. Reflect means to bounce off or throw back from the surface without absorbing it.

    4. The Moon has an orbit around the Earth while the Earth has an orbit around the Sun. An orbit is a path around a larger celestial body.

    5. The force of gravity keeps the Moon in its path. Gravity is an invisible force attracting one celestial body to another that has mass.

    6. The Moon and the Earth both rotate on an invisible axis. To rotate means to spin like a top.

    7. The Earth revolves around the Sun and the Moon revolves around the Earth. To revolve means to move in a somewhat circular movement around another object.

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    Why does the Moon look slightly different each night? It is because we are all in motion. This is even a somewhat difficult concept for an adult because it surely does not feel like we are moving!

    The best way to explain this is to use three balls: A large beach ball (the Sun), a soccer ball (the Earth) and a tennis ball (the Moon). Mark the soccer ball with an X indicating where you live.

    1. One student holds the Sun in the middle of the room. Remind students that the Sun is a medium star and our source of light and heat. The force of gravity holds the Earth in an orbit around the Sun.

    2. Now have the second student hold the Earth several yards from the Sun. The Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around thethumbnail-1.aspx  Sun. So the student should slowly spin and move around the Sun at the same time.

    3. Student three has the Moon and should be placed a few feet from the Earth. The Moon rotates (spins) and revolves around the Earth while the Earth revolves around the Sun.

    4. Freeze frame! Stop everyone. From where you live, where is the Sun and where is the Moon? Remember that the Moon reflects the light from the Sun. From where we live, we only see a certain part of the lighted surface because everything is moving.

    5. A full Moon is when the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon and we can see the whole lighted surface.

    6. Keep a calendar for a month and in each square draw a picture of what the moon looks like. The phases will range from new(totally dark), crescent, half, gibbous and full.

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    Comparing/Contrasting the Earth and Moon

    Provide a graphic organizer for each student.

    Each student should add entries to a graphic organizer to compare the Earth and Moon as they learn more facts. How are they alike?How are they different? Use an informational website to help them acquire more information.

    Possible Questions:

    Would you weigh more on the Earth or the Moon?

    Between the Earth and the Moon, which is colder at night? Hotter in the daytime?

    Which one has craters? (both)

    Which one has water?

    Which one has mountains?

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    Interesting Facts

    1.The Earth is the only planet to have only one moon. Some planets have no moons while others have many moons.

    2. The Moon has no atmosphere. Because of that it becomes very hot during the day and very cold at night. An atmosphere acts like a blanket around the Earth to keep it from having extreme temperatures.

    3. If you were standing on the Moon it would always appear to be nighttime.

    4. A “Blue Moon” is when two full moons occur in one month.

    5. When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin placed a USA flag on the moon it had a wire frame around it to give the appearance that it was stretched out in the wind. Remember, there is no air or wind on the moon.

    6. The footprints from the astronauts are still there. No wind or rain to destroy them.thumbnail-3.aspx 

    7. There is no sound on the Moon. You need air to carry sound waves.

    8. If you weigh 100 pounds on the Earth you would only weigh 16.6 pounds on the Moon.

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    References and Reflections

    Hopefully, when your students look into the night sky, they will remember things they have learned from the Earth's Moon lessons. The Moon is often a remarkable sight. We all need to take time to see it.


    Exploring the Moon by Rebecca Olien. Copyright 2007

    Why Does the Moon Change Shape? by Melissa Stewart. Copyright 2009



    Moon Phase Calendar:

    Nasa Photo: