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Moon Cycle

Lunar Phase Cycle for Kids

Study the moon cycle with our Phases of the Moon worksheet for kids in 3rd to 8th grade.

Phases of the Moon Worksheet

Objective: Order the lunar phases chronologically and identify the type of moon at any time in the night sky.

MatchCard Information Pieces diagram the different shapes through the cycle of the moon. Students identify the name and chronological order of the lunar cycle.

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This is MatchCard #4 of the Astronomy Unit Study. Find more information on MatchCard Science below.

Getting Started: A Teaser

Have a gift bag or box to show your students. Ask them to guess what is in it.

Have them open the bag and find it empty. Ask them how they would feel if they got something new they couldn't see. To prevent disappointment for some kids, you might like to have a small prize on hand. A paddle ball set with the ball attached to the paddle would be handy for this lesson, but not necessary. Then tell them we do get something new in the sky every month but we can't see it. It is the new moon.

Watch the Moon Cycle

Equipment to Demonstrate the Moon Cycle

You will need:
• A light source (lamp or flashlight)
• Ball to represent the moon
• Ping pong ball
• Golf Ball
• Tightly crumpled aluminum foil making 1 inch ball
• Revolving seat (optional)
• revolving desk chair
• Ottoman a student can spin on revolving chair or stool, though it is optional.

The ball is the moon and the light source is the sun. A student can sit in the chair to represent the Earth. (They can turn while standing on their feet if a revolving chair isn't available.)

Step One: Demonstrate the Moon's Revolution.

This is easy. The Earthling sits in the chair and someone else holds the moon ball and walks around the person. They should hold the ball up higher than the head of the person sitting. Voiola! Four weeks in fast motion. This revolution of the moon is what causes the lunar phases.

Note that the moon revolves around the Earth, but does not rotate on its axis. This means that those of us on Earth generally see the same side of the moon.

Step Two: Watch & Sketch the Moon Shape

We are going to do this revolution again, but now we will see why the moon appears to change shape during the moon cycle.

Full Moon

Position everyone so the sun is behind the Earth and the moon is in front of the Earth. With the moon held higher than the person's head, some light from the sun would reflect on the surface of the ball. This represents the full moon. Remember, the moon is only visible at night when the part of the Earth experiencing night is facing away. The sun is not visible, but the reflection of the sun on the moon is what causes the moon's light.

Half Moon

Move the moon in clock wise direction so it is halfway between it's original location and the sun. Notice that the half of the ball that is towards the sun is "shiney." It is reflecting the sun's light. The other half of the ball is darker. People on Earth would only see the shiney side reflecting the light. It is a half moon that they see. Draw a half moon.

New Moon

Now move the moon so it is between the sun and the Earth. Remember to hold it up high enough so it is over the Earthling's head (otherwise you get an solar eclipse - but that's another lesson.) How much of the shiney part of the ball can you see? Actually, none. The person in the chair cannot see the part reflecting the sun's light. This is the New Moon. It always seemed strange that you couldn't see the new moon. I mean what's the use of a nice, brand new moon if you can't see it? But this is why - it starts its cycle between the Earth and sun.

Half Moon

Now move again so it is halfway between the original position and the sun on the otherside. Again, you see a half moon, but it is the other half.

Go ahead and draw those four moons: new moon, full moon, and two halves. Then we are ready to show the quarter moons.

Fibbous Moon

Start again at the full moon, but now move only 1/4 of the way. You will see a gibbous - 3/4 of the moon is shining.

Crescent Moon

Continue moving the ball to the half moon which they saw before. Then move the moon so it is between the location of the half moon and the new moon. What part of the ball is shining? Why of course, it's the famous crescent moon shape.

When we read words on a page, we read left to right. Point out to the students that we ‘read” a moon from right to left instead of left to right.

Why? Because the moon is orbiting the Earth in a counter-clockwise motion. If the moon orbited clockwise, we would read it left to right. Seems a little backwards, doesn’t it?

Download the MatchCard below. Students can color the white part of the moon yellow with a highlighter or crayon to visualize which part of the moon is visible in the night sky. Point out to the students that we 'read" a moon from right to left instead of left to right.

You can cut apart the pictures, mix them up, and have them place them in order. Students will name the different moons later.

Oreo Moons

Use the famous black cookies with white filling to make the 8 different moons. This gives them practice making the shapes and putting them in order.

Looking at the four Quarter Moons

For your students who have already studied fractions, this concept should be easy to understand:
• First Quarter: Day 1 - New Moon
• Second Quarter: Day 8 - Half Moon
• Third Quarter: Day 15 - Full Moon
• Fourth Quarter: Day 22 - Half Moon

Track the Moon Cycle

Okay, we have demonstrated the phases of the moon with balls and lights. Now let's watch the real deal.

Every night for a full lunar cycle, have the students look in the sky and draw or name the moon they see. Remember to "read" the moon from right to left. You can give on-the-spot quizzes from here on. When you see the moon, ask which phase of the moon cycle it is in.

All Through the Night

Okay, we have learned what the moon is doing over a 28 day moon cycle. That was easy. Now we are going to learn what the moon is doing over a one night period.
Is that hard? Only if you and the kids have difficulty staying up all night. Get out the popcorn, some fun games, and lively music. You can watch old movies too. But just make sure you are doing something that everyone is willing to stop every hour and go look at the moon.

Does the moon change shape over night. No, but it changes it's location in the sky. Just as the sun moves from east to west across the sky, the moon moves too.

Learn to use a sky chart and chart the location of the moon hour by hour.

Why is it moving? Go back to the demonstration with the lamp, ball, and person sitting in the chair. Have the moon stand still and the person on the chair revolve 360 degrees to represent one day. Cut out the inside of a paper plate so he or she is looking out a round circle. As they rotate on the chair, the moon's location in the circular window changes.

Timed Contests: Just for Fun

Moon Shapes

Place the moons randomly face up in front of the student(s). Time how long it takes them to put them in correct order. Two people can complete with each other, or one student can compete with his or her own time.

Name That Moon

Without looking at the MatchCard, have the student name the phases of the moon starting with the New Moon as fast as they can. Another person can time him or her. They can combine this with finding the right diagram as well.

MatchCard Science

How To Use MatchCards

MatchCards make science concepts and corresponding vocabulary interactive. As students move the information pieces on the MatchCards they review the material they have already learned.

Download the FREE MatchCard Science Instructor's Guide and see how MatchCards can make building their science knowledge base fun.

Astronomy Unit Study

Your budding astronomers will learn how to track the great celestial bodies across the night sky. From the sun and moon, to stars and galaxies, worlds of wonder are waiting to be explored.

Explore the universe with the MatchCard Science Astronomy Unit Study..

12 Science Unit Studies

Chemistry is only one of twelve complete unit studies for kids in 3rd to 8th grade.

Comprehensive objectives, hands-on projects, suggested science fair experiments, and the fun game-like MatchCards keep them interested in learning science. See all twelve MatchCard Science Unit Studies.

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