Moon Inquiry: Part 1 - Introduction to the Moon and Our Solar System
Junior (Age 9 – 12)
Earth and Space Systems: Exploring and Understanding Concepts
Identify components of the solar system, including the Sun, Earth and other planets, natural satellites, comets, asteroids, and meteoroids, and describe their main physical characteristics
Identify the types of bodies in space that emit light and those that reflect light
This lesson is the beginning of an inquiry looking at Earth’s moon. Students will have opportunities to share their questions about the moon, they will be challenged to think about misconceptions they might hold about the moon, and they will engage in a research project to answer their questions and resolve their misconceptions.
This series has been designed to launch the start of a larger Earth and Space Systems unit.
Ideally, this inquiry begins at or shortly after the new moon phase of the lunar cycle, but such precise timing is not a requirement.
Tell the class that your newest science unit will be about outer space and the first natural object they will explore is the closest to Earth. Ask if they can guess what it is.
Students will likely answer with “the moon,” but other options may include human-made satellites or the International Space Station. If these answers come up, you can use this as an opportunity to discuss the differences between natural and artificial satellites.
Ask students what other objects they know about in the solar system?
Collect student answers on the blank chart paper. This gives students an opportunity to pool their existing knowledge about the various things that make up our solar system. Answers may include the sun, any of the eight planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), Pluto, the Asteroid Belt, the International Space Station, the Voyager Satellite(s), etc.
Tell students: Together we are going to take our existing knowledge of the moon and debunk any misconceptions we may have to become more knowledgeable about space! We will begin by focusing on the moon.
Conduct a read-aloud of “If You Were the Moon” by Laura Purdie Salas
On each page of Salas’s book, you will see large text poetically describing something about the moon (for example, “play dodgeball with space rocks”), and smaller text providing the scientific explanation of what the larger text alludes to.
For this first read-through, only read the larger text on each page.
After reading the large text on the page, ask the class what they think the author is talking about with their description.
For example: “What might the author mean when she says that the moon plays ‘dodgeball with space rocks?’”
On the reverse side of the same blank chart paper used earlier, record student theories about what the text/images mean.
After the read-aloud, tell students: We are going to conduct our own observations of the moon so that we can develop an understanding of the moon’s cycles and movement in the sky. From these observations, we can start to confirm some of our theories about what was communicated to us in the book.
Ask students: Does the moon look the same every night? Discuss with your partner why you think that is.
Have students share ideas with their neighbour about whether or not they think the moon appears to be different every night. Encourage them to provide a hypothesis about why this might be so.
After a suitable amount of time, take a class poll to see how many people think the moon appears the same every night and how many people think it changes.
Ask a few pairs of students to share their reasoning.
Tell students: Before and after school, I am challenging you to become more aware of the moon by locating the moon in the sky and taking a mental snapshot of it.
Continue by saying: Starting tomorrow,you will be greeted with this website when you come into the classroom. I want you to draw what the moon looks like and record the time of your observation. Over the span of the month, you will observe how the moon phase changes.
If misconceptions are shared, how are they being rationalized?
What knowledge/understandings of the moon and solar system do students already encompass?
Are students reflecting upon the questions being asked during the read aloud, and coming up with inquiries of their own?