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Teaching Geoscience with Visualizations: Using Images, Animations, and Models Effectively
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Cutting Edge > Visualization > Teaching Activities > Phases of the Moon

Phases of the Moon

Keith Clay and Robert Filson
,
Green River Community College

Summary

This series of five interactive animations illustrates the 'phases of the moon' and the associated sun-earth-moon configurations. The animations allow the students to observe and play with the revolution of the Moon around the earth and the changing appearance of the Moon from the Earth.

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Context

Audience

6-14 grades

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

We have students make observations of the Moon for about a month prior to the instruction. We ask them to record the appearance of the Moon, its position in the sky and the time of day. These animations could also be done without the pre-observations, although the handout would need to be modified slightly.

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity is in the second in three quarter sequence of science classes for non-science instructors. It could be anywhere in the course sequence.

I introduced these at a meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers a while back and since then I have received emails from an increasing number of high school teachers that have started using them having heard about them by word of mouth. The high school teachers report spending more time with them than Bob and I do in our college class (typically over a week compared with a day or two in our class).

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will understand how the rotation of the moon around the earth and the rotation of the earth around the sun affect the phases of the moon.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Created by Keith Clay at GRCC, this series of five interactive animations illustrates the 'phases of the moon' and the associated sun-earth-moon configurations. Students observe the Moon for about six weeks prior to working with the animations. The animations allow the students to observe and play with the rates of rotation and revolution between the earth and moon, and change the sun-earth-moon configurations to see the resulting moon phase. Links to pdf versions of the handout and a form to record moon observations are included.

A written set of exercises leads students through examination of the animation series. By using a lamp, a ball, and the viewer's head to represent the sun, moon, and earth respectively, students recreate the configurations shown in the animations and observe/sketch the phases of the 'moon' as depicted on the ball lit by the lamp. Additional animations and exercises are provided.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The Phases of the Moon (more info) activity includes quiz questions.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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