ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Investigate Phases of the Moon: Science Activity for Middle School Students

Updated on October 11, 2014

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.
Mahatma Gandhi

Lunar Phases

Because the moon revolves around the Earth, it seems to change shape from one day to the next. The changing shapes of the moon in the sky over the course of a month are known as the lunar phases. These moon phases depend upon the position of the moon relative to the Sun and the Earth. As the moon completes its orbit around the Earth, light from the Sun reflects off of it at different angles. The lighted portion of the moon always points the way to the Sun. Lunar phases begin with a new moon and 29½ days later end with a full moon. Eight lunar phases in all comprise a complete cycle. Complete the following activity with your own children or school class and allow them to discover how lunar phases occur.

Did You Know?

If you are viewing the moon from the equator, a crescent moon is shaped like a smile!

A lunar month is approximately 29½ days!

Objectives For Investigating Phases Of The Moon

  1. Be able to identify the main phases of the lunar cycle.
  2. Follow instructions carefully in an investigation.
  3. Make careful observations during a science activity.
  4. Understand why we are able to see the moon despite it not being a light source in itself.
  5. Understand why the moon appears to change shape.

Did You Also Know?

The moon moves by about 12° each day towards the east.

A Blue Moon is the second full moon occurring in a calendar month. They occur about every three years and the last Blue Moon occurred August 2012.

Materials Required To Investigate Moon Phases

  • a light source (lamp or flashlight)
  • styrofoam ball painted black or a dark-colored play ball
  • black paint (if using styrofoam ball)
  • pencil or knitting needle (for the handle)
  • darkened room


Method For Investigating Phases Of The Moon

  1. Put an X on one side of the ball (this represents the face of the moon you would see from earth).
  2. In a dark room, HOLD the ball at arm's length above your head.
  3. Have a friend shine a flashlight directly at the moon or have a spot upon which the flashlight can be anchored so that it is shining on your moon. A flashlight with a large beam would give better results.
  4. Slowly TURN yourself counterclockwise on the spot. ENSURE the X is always facing you and that the light stays in the same spot.
  5. RECORD and have a friend TAKE or DRAW pictures of what happens to the lighted portion of the ball at various positions during one trip around your spot. Stop at 45°, 90°, 135°, 180°, 225°, 270°, 315° and 360° angles to the light Using the diagram to the right as a guide, create a circle on the floor and mark out the angles using clock measurements. The flashlight (Sun) faces noon. .

Observation Table For Phases Of Moon Activity

Angle to Light
Position of X Relative to Lighted Surface

Diagram Of Your Results Investigating Moon Phases

  • Organize your photos or drawings into a series of events labelling each lunar phase.
  • Pixlr is free photo editing software which has a collage feature perfect to showcase your photos if you chose to photograph your results.

 Diagram of lunar phases.
Diagram of lunar phases. | Source

Discussion Of The Phases Of The Moon

Answer the following questions.

  1. Is the lighted portion of the moon facing towards the sun or away from it?
  2. When the moon is full, where is it in relation to the sun (light source) and earth (your spot on the floor)?
  3. Once the moon is full and you continue moving in the same direction around, what do you notice about the lighted portion?
  4. Why can we see the moon?
  5. Why does the moon appear to change shape?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks so much Theresa. I have a grade 9 class to whom I will be teaching space later in the semester. I am hoping to make use of this hub with them. Its been a while since I've had my own class to experiment with, he, he, he!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great Hub and great activiites for students. Which you had been my teacher of so many years ago. :) Sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)