Space has always been a fascinating topic for students, specifically because of its wonder and unpredictability. Many have often imagined what exactly lies above us and what new discoveries are yet to be made. The Earth and the Moon remain one of the most intriguing aspects of scientific discovery. In motivating students to become aware of space exploration past and present we encourage students to appreciate the wonder of the sky and what lies ahead. It also motivates students to value the questions scientists have yet to answer and help them to conceptualize the various ways scientists seek answers to these questions. In applying critical thinking skills students can better understand what can be learned from space exploration and to one day become a scientist or astronaut themselves. In order for NASA's dream to one day send people to Mars to come true, today's students must become involved.
Lesson Plans -Week 1 - Introduction of our Earth-Moon system (5-7) 45-60 minute classes
Day 1 (integrated with literacy)
Since students have already begun to observe the Moon, noticed the changes in the Moon and have even begun to wonder about the images seen, the teacher will open the unit by discussing what the students have observed about the Moon and what they may already know about the Moon. The teacher will then chart any questions that the students may have in regards to their observations or otherwise. As the unit progresses, the teacher can add additional questions that the students may have to the list. After the students shared their observations and formulated their questions the teacher will recognize and encourage the student's thinking in saying "Just as many of you have noticed the Moon's changes and have even seen people or animals pictured on the Moon's surface, so have many other people from different parts of the world throughout history. Let's explore what other people may have said about what they saw and compare it to our own observations, as well as what we know about the Moon already from scientific discoveries." Next, the teacher will read aloud The Truth About The Moon, by Clayton Bess. Throughout the read aloud, the teacher will stop and ask students questions like "Did you see the face of a person on the Moon's surface when you were observing it?" or "Did you feel puzzled like Samu each night as you noticed the Moon looked different than the previous night?" or "Do you think that there could be more than one Moon?" or "Do you think Samu will ever be able to reach the Moon?" Following the read aloud, the teacher will discuss with the students what genre The Truth About The Moon belongs in. Once students have established that The Truth About The Moon is a myth, a traditional story told to explain the view of a culture, then students can compare and contrast their perspective of the Moon and note the differences between what is true and what is merely made up to explain what couldn't be explained at that time.
Days 2- 5 ( integrated with literacy)
The teacher will open each class by reading a myth from a different part of the world taken from Moontellers by Lynn Moroney, followed by a discussion about what makes a myth a myth and how it relates to their observations. One the second day the teacher will begin to outline how a myth is written and give students the chance to share their own ideas if they were to write a myth about how the Moon came to be, what would they say? On day three, students will begin to write their own myth about how the Moon came to be.
Days 4-5 (integrated with Science)
Later in the day during science class the teacher will facilitate a class discussion about the Moon in accordance with scientific discoveries. The teacher will introduce the lesson by reading The Moon Book, by Gail Gibbons. A discussion about the composition of the Moon, its size and its phases will follow. Students will create their own "Moon Book." to be completed by the end of the unit. The book should begin with a Table of Contents and end with a Glossary of terms learned throughout the unit. In it, the students should have at 4 sections, namely: Moon Milestones (timeline of early astronomers to the 21st century, Apollo missions, what's next for NASA, astronaut training and education) Moon Facts (size, composition, phases, tides eclipses etc.) Moon Myths (summaries of the myths read and their own myths) and Moon Journal (Today I . . ...This is what I learned by doing it. . ...here are some pictures that show what I did. . ..)
Sample Lesson Plans for Weeks 2-6
Now that students have been introduced to the mythological background that many cultures share about the Moon they are ready to explore a deeper scientific explanation as they experiment with reflected light, gravity, eclipses and explore the Moon's surface. Students will continue to add definitions to their Moon Book as develop the Moon facts section.
The Source of the Moon's Light
Objective: The students will investigate and demonstrate the source of the Moon's light
Materials: mirror, flashlight, Moon logbook to record and illustrate data and observations.
Instruction/ Activity: Ask students to think about what causes the Moon's light. After charting some of the students' answers the teacher can perform the following demonstration with student assistance. The mirror represents the Moon and the flashlight represents the Sun. First, shut the curtains and turn off the lights. Then, turn on the flashlight and point it toward a wall. Ask students to observe what happens to the light. Next point the flashlight at the mirror and ask the students what they observe is happening to the light. Discuss the students' observations by asking them to describe what they saw. (When the flashlight shone on the wall, we saw only the wall, but when the flashlight shone on the mirror we could see other things in the class room too!) Explain that this is called reflected light. The sun shines on the Moon just as the flashlight shone on the mirror. Sunlight is reflected away from the Moon, similarly to the light that reflected off the mirror. Although neither the Moon nor the mirror actually produces their own light they can both reflect light. Finally students will record and illustrate what they learned in their Moon Book.
Objective: The following experiment will help to explain why celestial bodies, like the Moon or planets don't fall out of the sky. Many astronomers, including Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo often wondered; How does the force of gravity act on objects both on Earth and in space? Galileo thought that gravity exerted an equal force on objects despite their size and weight. This experiment will explain Galileo's idea. Be sure to provide background information about these two astronomers and their ideas first.
Materials: An orange, a dime and a piece of paper.
Instruction / Activity: Have the students stand in a wide circle. The teacher can stand in the middle with an orange in one hand and a dime in the other holding both arms straight out in front of her/him. Drop the orange and the coin at the same time. Both the orange and the dime will hit the ground at the exact same time. The size and weight did not make a difference in the gravitational pull on the objects. Give students a chance to come into the middle of the circle to try the experiment themselves. Next, the teacher will try another experiment with an orange and a sheet of paper. After charting the students predictions about which will hit the ground first, the teacher will hold each hand straight out in front of him/her and drop the object at the same moment. Students will wonder why gravity acted differently with the sheet of paper versus the coin. The truth is that gravity did not act differently, only that the light weight and shape of the paper interfered with the gravity's ability to pull the paper to the ground thus allowing the paper to 'float" for a moment before touching the ground. Next crumple the paper into a ball and holding your arms straight out, one with the crumpled piece of paper and the other with the orange drop both at the same time. Notice that this time both objects hit the ground at the same time again! The paper acts for a moment lighter than the air and so it floats before hitting the ground. Because our Earth's atmosphere is composed of several gasses there are some objects that can seemingly defy the laws of gravity like a feather or a parachute by taking advantage of the properties that make up the air. If you were on a planet without an atmosphere the sheet of paper would hit the ground at the same time as the orange. Following the activity, students can add a page in their Moon Journal portion of the Moon book by describing what they did and what they learned while doing it.
Creating Lunar Soil
Objective: During this week students will also experiment with making their own "lunar soil" and will explore the Moon's surface by examining how craters were formed.
Instruction: Begin with instruction with background information about the geology of the Moon. After having discussed meteors, asteroids and comets at length and adding them to the glossary section of the Moon Book, students will enjoy creating craters. Craters were caused by meteors, asteroids and comets that slammed into the Moon's surface. Many of these "impact craters" are deep and round in shape. Some may be smaller and shallower.
Materials: Newspaper, 9x 13 baking pan, 6 cups of salt, 6 cups of flour, Spatula.,2 tablespoons of paprika, cinnamon or cocoa powder,3 impactors such as a marble, a stone, a shell or a coin, Tongs
Instruction / Activity (The teacher can model her/his own pre-made soil and review instructions as printed on the chart paper or overhead. Be sure to have parent volunteers or paraprofessionals come in to work with the children to help monitor stations. Then arrange the room into 4 monitored stations. Each station should have the instructional steps on chart paper and the materials needed.
First, cover the floor with newspaper and put the baking pan on top of it.
Then, fill the pan with the salt and flour. Mix together. This is your lunar soil. Use the spatula to smooth out the soil.
Next, sprinkle a thin layer of paprika, cinnamon or cocoa across the lunar soil. (the colors will allow the craters to show up better upon impact.
Finally hold one of the impactors about twelve inches above the "moonscape" and drop it into the lunar soil. Repeat this step with the two other impactors. While students take turns repeating this step discuss with the station monitors about how and why they think the craters are different.
After having finished creating craters, allow the students to view the other stations so that they can note the similarities among the moonscapes. Next, have the students sit together in a community circle to discuss how the three crates were different and why. Ask the students, "What created the deepest crater or the widest?" After charting the answers you may even want to create a bar graph or pictograph together to represent tour data
The station monitors can meanwhile remove the impactors from the lunar soil. After having met with the teacher for sharing time, the students can then guess what impactor fit the crater it created.
Objective: students will investigate the cause of lunar phases and eclipses
Materials: Overhead projector or a bright light source, Small tennis ball, Soccer ball, Photos that show the different phases of the Moon
Instruction/Activity: Darken the room and set the projector or other light source on one side of the room having it point toward the center of the room. Begin the lesson by asking the students what is an eclipse and explain the two different types of eclipses that we see on Earth: a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse. After choosing two students to assist you, demonstrate a solar eclipse. Give one student the tennis ball (represents the Moon) and the other student the soccer ball (represents the Earth). The students should stand in the center of the room holding up the balls so that the light source (the Sun) is shining on them. Ask the students how much of the Earth is lit by the sun? (half) and How much of the Moon is lit by the Sun? (half) The class is then instructed to closely observe as the student who is holding the Moon crosses between the Erath and the Sun so that the tennis ball blocks some of the light that is hitting the soccer ball. Now ask the students; " What do you see on the Earth when the Moon crosses in front of it ( a shadow that covers only a part of the Erath).Now explain that during a solar eclipse the Moon casts a small shadow on the Earth, but from the Earth it looks like the Sun disappears behind the Moon. Ask students: "Can everyone on Earth see a solar eclipse when it happens?" (No, only the people who are in the path that the Moon's shadow passes over.) Next demonstrate a lunar eclipse. Begin by asking students what they think happens during a lunar eclipse. The same two students now have to switch places so that the Earth passes between the Sun and the Moon. The rest of the class observes carefully as the soccer ball blocks the light from hitting the tennis ball. Ask the class what is the main difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse. Explain that the Earth is so much ;larger than the Moon that it casts a larger shadow lunar eclipse therefore lasts longer than a solar eclipse and is visible to more people on Earth.