This inquiry into the Moon uses daily observations, 2D and digital models, read-alouds, informative videos, and robust classroom discussion to inspire and support students’ questions and curiosity. The inquiry is designed to help students attune to the natural world as they become familiar with the orbits of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, and examine the relationship between their movement in space and what we observe in the sky. The Moon exists within our collective consciousness in a way that masks how little most of us truly understand about it. This unit is structured to provide opportunities for students to identify their misconceptions about the Moon and broaden their understanding of it beyond its obvious scientific significance. Through the activities in the unit, students will begin to understand the Earth and Moon within the context of the larger solar system.
In Grade 6, the Ontario Science curriculum’s Earth and Space Systems strand focuses on building an understanding of our solar system (Strand E2), as well as the positive and negative impacts of human space exploration (Strand E1).
– Ontario Ministry of Education, 2022
Part 1 – Introduction to the Moon and Our Solar System
The inquiry begins by giving students the opportunity to share their questions about the Moon and challenging the misconceptions they might hold about the moon. Students are tasked with making daily observations of the Moon, noting how its appearance changes over time. Ideally, this inquiry will begin at or shortly after the new moon phase of the lunar cycle, but such precise timing is not a requirement.
Part 2 – Tracking and Moon and Sun
This lesson details the steps for filling in the observation chart that students will use to observe the changes in the Moon and Sun’s movements over the course of a 30-day lunar cycle. New information will be added to this chart every day, providing students with a rich data set from which to start asking new questions and drawing conclusions.
Part 3 – Analyzing Our Moon Data
When students have approximately seven or eight days’ worth of data (long enough for the moon to have visibly changed in appearance). they share their theories about what causes the Moon to change location and appearance over time. They also review the theories and questions they posed in Part 1 and 2 to determine whether any information they have gathered confirms any of their initial ideas.
Part 4 – The Movement of Objects in the Solar System
Students explore why the Moon appears to move through the sky and change appearance by using a digital simulator of the solar system. They observe how the planets (including Earth) move around the Sun, and how the Moon moves around Earth. They create their own 2-D models of the Sun, Earth, and Moon.
Part Five – Earth/Moon Orbits and Moon Phases
Students continue to gain knowledge about the scale and vastness of the solar system, They use their 2-D Sun-Earth-Moon models from Part 4 to explore the orbits of the Earth and Moon impact what humans see when they look up at the sky.
Part Six – Research Project
Students consider the significance of the Moon in different cultures and throughout history. They embark on a final research project, working together to determine the expectations for how they will present and read each other’s work.
Continue the conversation…
This inquiry can be used as a foundation to launch deeper conversations about the solar system and humanity’s place within it.
- What are the advantages of putting tools, like technology or settlements, on the Moon? What other implications might there be for this practice?
- What might we be able to learn about our own planet as well as others?
- Do we have the right to put objects into space that don’t occur naturally? Why or why not?
- Where does our “space junk” go? Who is responsible for it?
- Does a planet/moon have rights?
We thank educator Zoe Donoahue for inspiring us with this lesson. This lesson is an adaptation of an activity Zoe conducts with her Grade 5 students at The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.