Earth, Moon, Sun

Table of Contents

The other evening, as I was out walking, I noticed that the moon seemed exceptionally bright. I took out my binoculars and spent a few minutes gazing at the craters on the full moon. What a sight! Learning about and appreciating the relationship between the Earth, Sun, and Moon can be a lifelong interest. The elementary years are the first (and, unfortunately for many students, the last) school-based experiences they have with the topic.
Seeing the Moon focuses on the most famous features of our moon—the craters. The article includes an activity that simulates impact craters. The formative assessment probe described in The Daytime Moon uncovers student misconceptions about the moon and would be a good introduction to a unit on the moon. [SciLinks: Moon Phases]
What Causes the Tides? As a SciLinks reviewer, one of the first sites I reviewed (and declined) stated that tides come in the morning and go out in the evening. It’s not hard to understand how people who have never experiences tidal activity can develop misconceptions or incomplete understandings. This article is a quick primer on this phenomenon. While you’re on the subject of gravity, Gravity and Weight has two activities to help students explore the concept. [SciLinks: Tides, Gravity]

Shadows are fascinating to students and are related to the position of the Sun. Shadow Play describes a unit of study in which students investigated the relationship between shadows and seasons. The activities make use of the Starry Night software, but other Internet resources are suggested (such as the Stelllarium website). Child’s Play also has an activity related to shadows. [SciLinks: Light]
Can 4th-graders take on an engineering project? The students in the article Landing Safely on Mars did just that as they built models of Mars landers. This was not the typical craft stick model—the twist here was that the “landers” were dropped off the school roof to the ground below. Would the contents survive the “landing?” The activity also included connections to language arts as students wrote about their designs and created their own nonfiction books on the topic.  [SciLinks: Exploring Mars]
Collegiality and Better Science Teaching describes the implementation of a professional learning community and how one could be started elsewhere. If your PLC is interested in resources for teaching Earth and space science, Reach for the Stars! describes the resources that NSTA and NASA have for background knowledge and professional development on the topic.
Is a Mealworm Really a Worm? describes a model for a scaffolding process for science notebooks with younger students (Inquiry-Modeling-Sharing-Collaborative-Independent). I liked the checklist that documents the progression the students make on key organization skills tracked over several weeks. What would this model look like for other science topics? [SciLinks: Metamorphosis, Insects]
In her Early Years blog, Peggy Ashbrook has additional thoughts and resources on the topic. And check out more Connections for this issue (January 2012). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, there are ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, and other resources.

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