Moon Dance 2 Activities: Developing Earth and Space Perspectives for Phases of the Moon

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Sun-Earth-Moon Activities
Fall 2009-Day 12

The Anticipatory Set for Moon Dance 2 Moon Diagrams


michele.jpgMichele asked the students to conduct an experiment in order to determine how well their moon diagrams and predictions matched the reality of the sun-earth-moon system situation. “If you make your third quarter moon phase with the ping pong ball on a stick, then your arms will be at a 90 degree angle between the sun (lamp) and the moon (ping pong ball). I want you to try out what happens if you (the earth with the moon in hand) is close to the sun and far away from the sun. Where are you able to demonstrate your third quarter moon most accurately?”

Moon Dance 2

Each student held the “moon” in one hand and pointed the other arm at the “sun.” The students held their arms at a 90 degree angle between the “sun” and the “moon” because their observations and inferences had informed them of the angle present during a third-quarter moon (half-lit on the left side). When the students stood close to the “sun,” they noticed that their “moons” were not demonstrating the half-lit portion that they had expected at a third-quarter, 90 degree angle. One student commented, “It looks more like a gibbous than a third-quarter moon.” Why?third-quarter_moon_close_to_the_sun_.jpg

distance_from_the_sun.jpg Michele and Emily, two of the instructors, asked the students to expand upon their models. If your moon models are not showing the third-quarter “moon” that you had anticipated, how could you make your model replicate of the sun-earth-moon system? The students discovered, through the hands-on activity, that by stepping further away from the “sun,” the “moon” became less like a gibbous and more like a third-quarter moon. This finding justified the students' explorations and predictions of their sun-earth-moon diagrams. Through modeling, the students were able to infer that the sun, in fact, is very far away from the earth and moon.

The Next Step

The next step is to think about the relative sizes of the sun and the moon. If the students hold their thumbs up and compare their thumbs to the wall clock, the thumbs and the wall clock appear to be about the same size. However, if they walk right up to the wall where the wall clock is hanging and compare their thumbs to the wall clock, their thumbs are very small and the wall clock is very large. From this they can infer that the moon must be small and the sun must be very large if the sun is very far away.

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