Earth and Space Science

Reason for the Seasons, Moon Phases & Day/Night Cycle!

Colorado recently adjusted their standards and grade specific delivery schedule. No matter which of the middle school levels I teach - phases of the moon and seasons has always been a difficult concept for my learners to acquire.

I was thrilled to discover these resources tonight when I conducted an
"Advanced Search" through NSTA's Learning Center. Find the link easily by clicking on the above search tab, without entering a search item. On the left side of the page is "Advanced Search". By clicking on the link you are able to search collections that were assembled by NSTA Online Advisors, NSTA members, and individual NSTA resources. What a life and time saver that feature has been!

Anyone have ideas on engaging, inquiry based "Reason for the Season" or "Day/Night" lessons or labs?

Enjoy your week, Alyce

Alyce Dalzell
Alyce Dalzell
64075 Activity Points

I agree that these are difficult concepts to teach, Alyce. Check out the excellent resources mentioned at a similar discussion thread, too: Earth and Space Science > Misconception about Winter and Sun Distance . This is such an important topic to address. Thank you for sharing how to access all the great resources in the NSTA Learning Center.
As per you main question: Anyone have ideas on engaging, inquiry based "Reason for the Season" or "Day/Night" lessons or labs?
I think the one of the best ways to help students gain first-hand experience is to do the observations over time described in the NSTA article (you mentioned it above, too): Bringing Moon Phases Down to Earth
I will look forward to others' ideas for engaging, inquiry-based lessons on these topics.

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
80138 Activity Points

I just started teaching my students about the seasons,moon phases, and day/night. I agree that it is a very hard concept for the students to understand. I know in Hawaii we start teaching the basics of the sun, moon, and Earth in kindergarten, but working with my third graders, they have a really hard time conceptualizing how they all work together. The students had a great time learning about the moon phases. One area that I really had a hard time finding more resources on was about the movement of the sun. The sciguide for the solar system had very little resources, so I had a difficult time showing the students why the sun rises and sets. If anyone has any other resources on this topic please let me know. The resources that were provided in the earlier threads are great too. Thank you for those resources.

Nohelani Kunishige
Nohelani Kunishige
2060 Activity Points

Thank you for recommending the articles to us. I especially enjoyed "Daylight Saving Time". Each year I have a "rich" discussion on this topic. My students are always amazed when they hear that where I am from, we "Spring Ahead and Fall Behind". Thank you so much! Ricki Luster

Ricki Luster
Ricki Luster
1400 Activity Points

> Nohelani have you seen the article linked below? It provides some interesting ideas on how to help students to think about why the sun appears to move. And this link has a lesson where the kids get to be the earth rotating and sometimes the sun is behind them and sometimes in front of them. I have heard of using this lesson from elementary through middle school to try to help students overcome misconceptions. And the kids enjoy "dancing" as they revolve and rotate around the sun! http://www.eyeonthesky.org/lessonplans/06sun_motionplayground.html Good luck!

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Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65560 Activity Points

Misconceptions in all science disciplines is a daily struggle for students and those of us that teach them for 45 - 70 minutes a day. On Monday a comment - althought not unheard of - but less common in 8th grade, was made during our weekly "NASA Space Update" video clip view and discussion. A young man stated, "Well, sometimes it's difficult to keep a journal on the moon's movement and size because there are always so many whirling through space, I never know which of the earth's moons I should be watching." I took a breath and waited for shout outs from class members...no one. I've discovered an area that I need to review before state testing!! LOL

A fantastic site to begin is NASA's sponsored Jet Propulsion Laboratory teacher site. Registration is free, and their are 1,000's of available links, lessons, video clips and images to access.

If you have any ideas to share concerning the moon's phases and teaching strategies for the earth, moon, and sun connection...we would all love to hear from you!

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Alyce Dalzell
Alyce Dalzell
64075 Activity Points

Great Resources All. Thanks so very much for sharing.

Lorrie Armfield
Lorrie Armfield
51418 Activity Points

Hello Friends,
I recently found a free downloadable e-chapter in NSTA's Science Store that would fit perfectly in our topic discussion for elementary and middle school students.

The series Everyday Science Mysteries: Stories for Inquiry-Based Science Teaching is an excellent source for discovering engaging and motivational stories that a teacher (or student) could read-aloud to their class.

The chapter "Moon Tricks" is designed to call attention to the changes in position and shape of the Moon over time. Its purpose is to motivate students to observe the Moon each day, record their observations and find the patterns in the Moon’s movement and shape. For older students, the reasons for these patterns might also be the curricular goal.

I was thrilled that there are 10 identified correlations of this read-aloud to the National Science Standards - areas that my colleagues and administrators are always looking for in a classroom "pop-in". I've used several of these chapters, and the inquiry ideas found at the end of the reading...look the chapter over, because the concepts range from low elementary to high middle school.

Please share ideas you may have developed for teaching the Seasons, Moon Phases & Day/Night concepts!! I'm still searching,

Enjoy your week, Alyce

Alyce Dalzell
Alyce Dalzell
64075 Activity Points

Tina, Thanks for the resource on the Earth/Sun activity. I was looking for something like it. Have you used it? What kind of modifications or adaptations would you recommend for a middle-school audience? Cheska

Cheska Robinson
Cheska Lorena
4915 Activity Points

If you do not have the space to do the playground activity, the same website offers a kinesthetic model using student volunteers and as a whole class demonstration: http://www.eyeonthesky.org/lessonplans/05sun_daynight.html. The site has another Styrofoam ball model activity too, http://www.eyeonthesky.org/lessonplans/07sun_motionclass.html. Attached is an article I came across in a search describing a student-centered activity where students build a model of how they think seasons occur. Another idea I thought that was interesting was tying in Vivaldi's Four Seasons songs and a writing prompt with the building activity to make it more interdisciplinary.

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Cheska Robinson
Cheska Lorena
4915 Activity Points

The Space Science Institute also has a great collection of lesson plans called "Kinesthetic Astronomy". I'm thinking of using a few this week -- http://www.spacescience.org/education/extra/kinesthetic_astronomy/#dl

Cheska Robinson
Cheska Lorena
4915 Activity Points

Cheska,

I absolutely love the http://www.spacescience.org/education/extra/kinesthetic_astronomy/#dl site, especially the Solarscapes. The information presented is student-friendly, and most certainly will help my scholars take more responsibility for their own thinking and learning as they explore physical nature of the Sun.

Thanks a billion for sharing.

LA

Lorrie Armfield
Lorrie Armfield
51418 Activity Points

Tina, The http://www.eyeonthesky.org/lessonplans/06sun_motionplayground.html is excellent resource for teaching about the motion of the sun and the Earth. Recently, my scholars learned about Rotation and Revolution (Motions of the Earth and Moon in Space). This activity would have been a nice extension to the lesson. I have included the link in my archives to review next year prior to teaching the unit on Earth in Space. Thanks for sharing. Keep the ideas coming. LA

Lorrie Armfield
Lorrie Armfield
51418 Activity Points

Actually I used a variation of this (Lorrie's suggestion) to model planetary orbits to demonstrate why different planets might need more time to circle the sun just because of the circumference of their orbits. Not as complicated as equations on angular momentum that they wouldn't understand anyway, but it gets the general idea across. I haven't done the Sun, Earth, Moon interactions (only Earth Moon) but it would be similar, I imagine.

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65560 Activity Points

Thanks for these links. I heard a great NPR report recently that interviewed Barbara Radding Morgan the backup to Christa McAuliffe on the mission of Space Shuttle Challenger. Twelve years after the fatal launch, Barbara Radding bacame a full time astronaut and reached her dream to fly to the moon. I was interested in more details for her amazing life and visited the NASA website to find a plethora of resources. Here is a link that leads to other great resources. http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/2006/educators/lp_k5.php

Erin Mendelson
Erin Mendelson
2680 Activity Points

Thanks for sharing Erin. Now this was a 'WOW' moment for me. The resource is great.

LA

Lorrie Armfield
Lorrie Armfield
51418 Activity Points

I find it interesting that the middle school teachers say that the children struggle to understand the seasons and phases of the moon, where in Hawaii we are expected to teach basic moon phases/movements in third grade. Perhaps it is a better match for older grades? I am still trying to figure out how to teach it this year and I'm sure it will evolve as I work through the course work provided through NSTA. I used to have the students draw the moon as homework, but it was not very successful since we have a lot of cloud cover at night. I will probably rely a lot on computerized animations to introduce it and maybe try some of the hands on playground models afterwards to help the students connect to the learning.

Shawna Fischer
Shawna Fischer
2300 Activity Points

Thank you for these resources, we are about to teach a unit on the earth-sun-moon system including phases of the moon, tides and seasons. I was a bit unsure of the approach for seasons until I read these posts. Any suggestions for hands on activities or ways to approach tides?

Jennifer Glass
Jennifer Webber
770 Activity Points

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