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The Sun and the Moon Lesson
This is part 2 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Astronomy. Form the lunar phases using Oreo cookies, drop balls in flour to make a crater-filled lunar surface, recreate Galileo's famous gravity experiment, and more! My lessons are geared toward 3rd-4th grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 14 children between the ages of 1-13. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, after school program, or co-op!
Have you ever seen an eclipse?
Introduction & The Round Earth
1. Stretch & pray.
2. Read and discuss Genesis 1: 14-19.
3. Ask the children, "When you look out the window, does the world look flat? Why? Does it look like to sun moves around us or we move around the sun? How do you know those aren't the case?" It wasn't always the case that we knew the world was round & the Earth revolved around the sun.
4. Briefly introduce the history of astronomy by reading the first page of Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System by Kathleen V. Kudlinski.
5. Discuss how we learned the earth is round. Mention a bit about Erastothenes. Hold a toy against a ball or globe. Slowly rotate the globe/ball asking the children if they can see the toy yet and if they can see all of it yet. It will gradually come into view just like ships would appear coming over the horizon. You can also get additional ideas of what to say here .
YOU WILL NEED: a ball/globe, a small toy, and a broom or straight stick
Book used for activities 4 & 6
We will be reading pages from this book as part of the lesson. This has great illustrations and succinct information. It is inaccurate in a few places, so make sure to brush up on your astronomy knowledge before reading it. It is still worth reading, though!
Copernicus & the Revolving Earth
6. Read the next few first pages of Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System by Kathleen V. Kudlinski. Until after it mentions Galileo's work.
7. Read some of Nicolaus Copernicus: The Earth Is a Planet by Dennis B. Fradin.
8. Act out revolving. Place a lamp (turned on) in the middle of the room. Have everyone stand in a circle around the lamp. Have them walk counterclockwise around the lamp and ask how long it takes the earth to revolve around the sun.
YOU WILL NEED: a lamp, lantern, or flashlight
Book used for activity 7
This is a wonderful picture biography on an important, but lesser-known Christian scientist and astronomer who learned that the Earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa. During our lesson we only read part of this book, but you can read the whole book if you are not limited by time!
Day & Night
9. Read What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn M. Branley.
10. Act out rotating. Place a lamp (turned on) in the middle of the room. Have everyone stand in a circle around the lamp. Mention that the Earth is tilted pointing toward Polaris, so have them tilt their heads toward a picture of a star on the wall. Have them rotate on their axis by turning around so their back is to the lamp/sun. Have them say, "Night." Turn counterclockwise with your side to the lamp and say, "Sunrise." Turn counterclockwise facing the sun and say, "Noon." Turn counterclockwise with your side to the lamp and say, "Sunset." Go through everything again. Now have everyone rotate and revolve around the lamp/sun. You can also get additional ideas of what to say from this lesson plan and this lesson plan.
YOU WILL NEED: a lamp
11. Show a picture of the Earth taken from space that shows half the Earth in blackness. Ask, "What happened to the rest of the Earth?" Point at different places on the picture and ask what time it is in the picture (i.e. the blackness is night, the point on the Earth between the blackness and the light is sunrise, etc.)
Book used for activity 9
We read a bunch of books on this topic, and this was our favorite one. It has nice illustrations and explains the topic in a simple enough manner but still provides enough depth to keep it educational for any level of elementary age.
12. Ask the children what keeps the Earth revolving around the sun (Gravity). Demonstrate: Have all but 1 child sit at one side of the room. Have 1 child stand next to you. Hold hands. Tell the child to go and sit with the other children while still holding your hand. Meanwhile, you should spin around in a circle a few times and hold on tightly to his/her hand. Ask: What direction was s/he trying to go? What direction did the s/he go? Why couldn't s/he go straight? What did I represent? (sun) What did s/he represent? (Earth) What did our arms represent? (gravity)
13. If you are not limited by time, read through some of Gravity Is a Mystery by Franklyn M. Branley.
Optional book to read for activity 13
This is simple enough of an explanation of a not-so-easy topic, and it has fun illustrations that all of my students and children enjoyed.
Galileo's Gravity Experiment
14. Ask the children what they think of when they think of science. Hopefully someone will say, "Experiments." Tell them that wasn't always the case. Briefly mention Aristotle and how scientists accepted whatever he taught as true. Briefly mention how Galileo challenged that way of thinking.
15. Do Galileo/Pisa experiment to demonstrate effects of gravity. Tell them that Aristotle said that items that weigh more will drop faster. Give each child a baseball, tennis ball or orange and a penny. Have them stand on a chair or someplace higher if possible. Ask, "Which item do you think will land first?" Have them hold out both hands and drop the items at the same time. They should land at the same time. (The higher up from which they drop them, the better this will be demonstrated.) Switch out the penny for a piece of paper. Now ask, "Which item do you think will land first?" Have them drop them at the same time. The ball should land first. Now have them crumple up the paper tightly. Ask, "Which item do you think will land first?" Have them drop them at the same time. They should land at the same time. Ask, "What happened?" Explain that they changed the surface area of the paper. The paper floated lightly through the air at first but after you change the surface area, it can't get caught up in the wind anymore. If our planet was like Mercury or the moon and didn't have an atmosphere, even the un-crumpled paper would fall at the same speed." Show pictures of Galileo's experiment from Galileo's Leaning Tower Experiment by Wendy Macdonald (optional).
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: baseball, tennis ball or orange, penny, & a piece of paper
Optional book we used for activity 15
We really enjoyed this picture book on Galileo's famous gravity experiment he performed from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It has wonderful illustrations and interesting text. If you are not limited by time, you can read this book during your lesson.
Galileo & the Telescope
16. Galileo was well known for encouraging scientists to test the theories of Aristotle using experiments like the one we just did. He was also well known for his developments on the telescope with which he used to study the moon.
17. Read some of Galileo's Journal, 1609-1610 by Jeanne Pettenati (leaving out the dates and locations in the journal entries).
18. (OPTIONAL) Pass around a telescope and let children look out the window using it.
YOU WILL NEED: a telescope or binoculars
Book used for activity 17
We really enjoyed this picture book that discusses how Galileo advanced the telescope and used it to discover Jupiter and its moons. It has wonderful illustrations and interesting text!
The Moon's Surface
19. Read Moon by Steve Tomecek. (Skip page 15.)
20. Create the moon's surface. Cover an area with newspapers as this will get flour everywhere. Give each child a cake pan with about 2 cups of flour (surface of the moon) in it and 3 small balls of different sizes (meteorites). Ask them what each item represents. Let them drop the balls in the flour and create craters. Ask them if this is what the Earth looks like and why. The moon has no atmosphere. God protected our planet with an atmosphere to burn up meteorites as they blast onto our planet.
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: cake or pie pan (brought by families), 2 cups of flour, and 3 balls of various sizes
Book used for activity 19
We read lots of books on the moon, and this was our favorite. It has nice illustrations and the perfect amount of text to make it just the right length to be read aloud to a group.
21. (OPTIONAL) Show a photograph of the moon's surface and a picture of a moon rock. Pass around a piece of basalt and explain how this igneous rock is very similar to what moon rocks look like as much of the "seas" of the moon are made of basalt.
YOU WILL NEED: 1 piece of basalt
Moon Reflecting the Sun's Light
22. Show how the moon reflects the light of sun & how phases are made. Give each child a ball (I used tennis balls.) and a piece of aluminum foil. Have them wrap the ball with the foil. This is your moon. Have them each grab their flashlight. Everyone gets to cram into 1 or 2 bathrooms (the only dark rooms in my house). Turn off the lights. Can they see their moon? (No.) Now have them each turn on their flashlights (the sun). Can they see their moon now? (Yes.) What did this show them? (The moon shines because it reflects the light of the moon.) Have all but 1 child turn off their flashlight. Use a ball (the Earth) & have it slowly move between the light from the flashlight & the moon. Watch how on parts of the moon are illuminated. This is what causes lunar phases. Yes, the complete moon is always there, but you can only see parts of it because the Earth gets between some of the rays of sunshine and the moon. You can get additional ideas of what to say by looking at this lesson plan or this lesson plan.
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD OR PAIR OF CHILDREN: 2 balls (one about the size of a tennis ball & one about the size of a soccer or basketball) flashlight (brought by families) & aluminum foil
Oreo Lunar Phases
23. Show the various lunar phases by showing the cut outs in Faces of the Moon by Bob Crelin.
24. Create the moon's phases using Oreo cookies and then eat cookies & drink water. Review what we've learned so far as they eat the cookies.
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: 5 Oreo-type cookies, 1 copy of the moon phases Oreo sheet from The Moon's Phases Using Oreo Cookies , 1 plastic knife or spoon, 1 napkin, and 1 cup for water
Book used for activity 23
We loved the cut-outs in this book! It goes through the phases of the moon and has a cut-out of the moon's phase on each page. It is written in rhyme and provides just the right amount of information to hold the interest of all the children. It also includes around what time of day each of those phases of the moon tend to appear and set in the sky.
Eclipses & Review
25. Read Eclipse: Darkness in Daytime by Franklyn Mansfield Branley. Halfway through the book have the children look out the window at a tree. Close one eye. Hold up one finger and position it so that you can't see the tree. Ask, "Did the tree disappear? Why did it appear to no longer be there?" Your finger (smaller than the tree) was able to block out the tree because it's closer to you. The moon is closer to us so it is able to block out the enormous sun during an eclipse.
26. Show a picture of a lunar eclipse and discuss the one we saw in December 2010. (It turns red because the sun's light passes through the atmosphere of the Earth...kind of like at sunrise and sunset.)
27. Review Planets Go Spinning song from last week's Solar System lesson.
28. Sing Day, Night, & Year song.
(Tune: " The Farmer in the Dell")
The Earth rotates around, (Spin around in place)
The Earth rotates around,
Once a day, in 24 hours, (Tap wrist like you're tapping a watch)
The Earth rotates around.
The moon rotates 'round the Earth, (Hold up 1 finger & spin around in place)
The moon rotates 'round the Earth,
Once a month, 29 days, (Tap wrist like you're tapping a watch)
The moon rotates 'round the Earth.
The Earth revolves 'round the sun, (Hold out one finger & wave around in a large circle)
The Earth revolves 'round the sun,
Once a year, 365 days, (Tap wrist like you're tapping a watch)
The Earth revolves 'round the sun.
Book used for activity 25
This is the best book on eclipses that I could find. It has illustrations (very appealing to my children) rather than photographs and it has just the right amount of information for this age group.
Videos: Watch "Falling Bodies" Experiments
Watch the recreation of Galileo's "falling objects experiment at the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the original footage of a hammer & feather getting dropped on the moon by an Apollo 15 astronaut.
More of Our Favorite Galileo Books
There are many great books written for children on Galileo. In addition to the books we used during this lesson, we also really enjoyed:
- Galileo's Treasure Box by Catherine Brighton
- Galileo: Scientist and Stargazer (What's Their Story) by Jacqueline Mitton
- Along Came Galileo by Jeanne Bendick
- Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei by Peter Sís
- Galileo by Leonard Everett Fisher
- Galileo for Kids: His Life and Ideas, 25 Activities (For Kids series) by Richard Panchyk (Activity ideas and text for older children or adults)
Read for the next lesson?
Make planet pizzas as you study planets, form the lunar phases using Oreo cookies as you study the moon, study and paint Van Gogh's "Starry Night " as you study stars, build and blast off rockets as you study space exploration, make presentations on individual planets, and more during this 4 part hands-on unit study on the solar system.
Solar System Lesson - This is part 1 of a 4 part hands-on unit on Astronomy. Make planet pizzas, take a planet walk, and more in this exciting lesson on our fascinating solar system!
The Sun and the Moon Lesson - This is part 2 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Astronomy. Form the lunar phases using Oreo cookies, drop balls in flour to make a crater-filled lunar surface, recreate Galileo's famous gravity experiment, and more!
Comets, Asteroids, Meteors, Stars, & Constellations - This is part 3 of a 4 part hands-on unit study on Astronomy. Make a comet, study and paint Van Gogh's "Starry Night," decorate a cookie to learn the parts of the sun, form asteroids out of mashed potatoes, assemble constellations using marshmallows, and more!
Astronauts, Rockets, and Space Ships Lesson - This is part 4 of a 4 part hands-on unit on Astronomy. Make rockets, try out astronaut tasks, make and eat a spacecraft, and more in this fun lesson on space exploration!
Astronomy Presentations and Field Trip Ideas - This is the culminating activity we did after a 4 part hands-on unit on astronomy. We held a star-gazing party and dinner. The children each presented on an assigned planet and they sang the astronomy songs we've been learning during our unit. Also included are the field trips we took during this unit.
Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Over the years I have posted over 40 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 170 lessons. The unit studies include the Human Body, Simple Machines, Earth Science, Medieval Period, American Revolution, Pioneer Life, Countries of the World, and many more! For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources.
Would you like to teach this way every day?
I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!
If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!