“Teaching about Astronomy–Earth-Moon Interactions”

by | Jul 31, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

LDEO NGSS Summer Institutes: “Teaching about Astronomy” (GED 7214)

Lesson 4: Earth-Moon Interactions

Expect Time Required: hr

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Selected NGSS Connections:
ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
 This model of the solar system can explain eclipses of the sun and the moon. Earth’s spin axis is fixed in direction over the short-term but tilted relative to its orbit around the sun. The seasons are a result of that tilt and are caused by the differential intensity of sunlight on different areas of Earth across the year.
MS ESS1-1. Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons. [Clarification Statement: Examples of models can be physical, graphical, or conceptual.]

Selected PS/ES Core Curriculum Standards
1.1a Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion
> These motions explain such phenomena as the day, year, seasons, phases of the Moon, eclipses, and tides.

General Note:
You should first read through all of the information below and then go back to examine the linked activities. These are presented as examples for designing you own classroom plans, not rigid guidelines to follow exactly. If you do create your own activities and wish me to provide feedback, please send them.

Part 1. Earth-Moon Interactions

It will be useful to start by building on data collecting and recording, similar to what students did in the Earth-Sun lesson.
Here is one activity about Earth-Moon patterns:  http://earth2class.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Moonrise_patterns.pdf.
Here is another activity to enhance understanding of the Phases of the Moon:  http://earth2class.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/moon-phases.pdf

Developing understanding of these patterns is enhanced when students use physical models to explore the topic. This is particularly useful for mastering “perspective taking.” View the presentation developed by Dr. Kim Kastens in connection with the Lamont Spatial Thinking research


http://www.moonconnection.com/moon_phases_calendar.phtml (Northern & Southern Hemispheres)

One other important consequence of Earth-Moon interactions are the ocean’s tides. Here is a simple activity about some concepts your students should know: http://earth2class.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Moons_phases_and_tides.pdf

How much you should teach about tides depends in part on your proximity to tidal waters. Here are links to learn more from the NOAA Tides and Current Education pages http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/education.html

Response: Briefly discuss the relative importance of teaching about tides in your school setting.

Part 2. Using the Earth Science Reference Tables

Use the “Solar System Data” chart on p. 15 of the ESRT to answer these questions.

  1. How far is the Moon from the Earth?
  2. What is the ratio of the earth’s diameter to the Moon’s diameter. Give this as both actual values and a ratio expressed to 2 decimal places.
  3. What is the ratio of the mass of the Moon to the Earth?
    How would this different affect your weight on the Moon compared with your weight in Earth?
  4. What is the ratio of the average density of the Earth and the Moon? Give this as both actual values and a ratio expressed to 2 decimal places.
  5. Compared with other celestial objects, what is unique about the Moon’s Period of Revolution and Period of Rotation?
    What is the result of this fact in regard to what we see of the Moon from Earth?

Part 3 Exploring Related NASA resources

Go to www.nasa.gov. Use the “Solar System and Beyond” pull-down menu to find more information about the Moon.


Response: What are 3 – 4 ways to incorporate these resources into your lesson plans?

Additional Questions about Earth-Moon Interactions

You do not have to provide answers for these questions, but you may wish to consider these in developing enrichment activities for your students. The NASA website is useful for finding answers.

  1. What is the probable origin of the Moon?
  2. What are the light and dark areas we can see on the Moon?
  3. Why does the Moon have so many more craters than Earth?
  4. What were the earliest space probes of the Moon?
  5. When did humans first land on the Moon? Briefly describe this mission.
  6. When was the last time humans landed on the Moon?
  7. What are current Missions to the Moon?
  8. What evidence exists for changes in the Earth-Moon interactions over geologic timespans?

Part 4 Incorporating Reading and Video into Your Curriculum

There are many books, fiction and non-fiction, about the Moon and its relation to Earth. Long before the NASA “Apollo” missions, people used their imagination to create images of what they thought the Moon was like.
One of the earliest movies was “La Voyage dans la Lune” (“Voyage to the Moon”) produced by George Melies in 1902

Response: Create a lesson plan that incorporates this early moving picture.

Many people growing up in the 1920s – 1950s read the Dr. Doolittle books, including Doctor Doolittle in the Moon. Published in 1928 as what was intended to be the finale of the series, author Hugh Lofting took a more serious tone than in earlier books, and seems to be a forerunner of the ecological movement that occurred decades later. One online version is provided by Project Gutenberg Australia.

A more recent book for children about exploring the Moon is Max Goes to the Moon. Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, a NASA scientist, created this as the first of a series of space exploration books designed for young readers. Astronaut Alvin Drew read from them during the final flight of Space Shuttle Discovery. There is also a planetarium show version that you can use in your classroom.

Response: Describe a lesson plan that would incorporate these or other readings into your curriculum.