Throughout history, many have noticed different shapes and even faces of people on the Moon's surface. The first week will introduce the students to various pieces of literature that depicts how the Moon came to be, as well as its phases. Students will write their own fables that describe the origins of the Moon. A brief scientific introduction to the Earth's Moon will then be given, such as the Moon is Earth's satellite and a satellite is an object that travels around a larger object because of gravity, in this case the object is the Earth. Brief facts in regards to the Moon's size (roughly one fourth the size of the Earth), and its inability to sustain life because of its lack of air and water will be discussed. Vocabulary that will be introduced and integrated throughout this unit include
atmosphere, axis, eclipse, gravitational pull, orbit, revolution, satellite and tide.
The second week students will explore whether there is any scientific reasoning behind the mythological explanation. In order to develop a deep understanding of lunar material and geology, students will evaluate images and other information retrieved via astronauts' explorations. This will then be compared with what ancient people observed when they looked at the Moon. Students will also investigate the physical features of the Moon, specifically: hills, mountains, plains, craters and the "maria" that are seas of dust. The Moon has no weather since it does not have an atmosphere. Students will discuss the weak gravitational pull on the Moon and experiment with gravity in a dramatization with an orange, dime and a sheet of paper (see lesson plan for details).
By the third week, students are familiar with the names of the phases of the Moon and can differentiate between what the Moon looks like at various times during the month. Students will be asked to defend the explanation that the Moon does not change physically, but only that the amount of light that falls upon the Moon causes it to appear that way. Students will display their understanding through the creation of a 'paper plate Moon phase chart', 'flip book' or 'mobile'. Students will examine how the Moon always keeps the same side facing the Earth and recall that it takes about 27 days to revolve around the Earth.
After having investigated some ancient cultures and beliefs with regards to lunar eclipses, students will need to apply their prior knowledge about how the Moon's phases occur to demonstrate how and when a lunar eclipse can occur in week four. Students will differentiate between a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse. Additionally, students will apply their prior knowledge of the Moon's gravitational pull and explain with supportive detail how the Moon affects the tides on the Earth.
During week 5, students will explore NASA's first glimpses of the Moon and how the space race began. The objective will be to understand mankind's knowledge of the Moon dating from the early astronomers to the astronomers in the twenty -first century. Students will categorize and analyze the Apollo Missions by creating a time line of what discoveries were made and their effects on NASA today.
Although fascinating, children generally want to know, "what's next?" Based on their cumulative study, students can sketch and predict what will come next based on their application of prior knowledge from this unit. Students will question the possibility of another trip to the Moon and possibly to Mars. During the sixth week, students will review what is needed to become an astronomer today, evaluate the training needed and the tools that astronomers use.