Roughly 4.5 billion years ago, Earth started to form as a result of matter clumping together due to gravitational attraction. Over time, these clumps of matter started hitting into each other, forming larger bodies that eventually would lead to planets and moons. Our Moon is a celestial body that orbits the Earth. It is Earth’s only permanent natural satellite, orbiting around the Earth once every 28 days. Although the Moon appears to be the same size as the Sun in the sky, it is actually much smaller and a lot closer. After the famous landing of July 21, 1969 by Neil Armstrong, the Moon became the first celestial object ever visited by humans.
By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!
Our planet is unique in our solar system that it has near perfect conditions for life. It is the third planet from the Sun and the only one we currently believe has liquid water. The Earth orbits the Sun and takes 365.25 days to complete one revolution. A calendar year lasts 365 days, meaning every four years we add on another day, February 29th, to get back on track. Every fourth year with February 29th is known as a Leap Year.
The Earth is split up into two halves, known as hemispheres. There is a Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere. The two hemispheres meet at the equator, an imaginary line of latitude halfway between the North Pole and the South Pole. The Earth rotates about an axis which is not vertical. The Earth takes 24 hours to make a full rotation, making the day. It is thought that the Earth was hit by a very large object which changed the planet’s rotational axis. The Earth’s axial tilt changes between 22.1° and 24.5°. This tilt causes the Earth’s seasons. During the summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere, the tilt is pointing towards the Sun. This means that the Sun’s light is spread over a smaller area, so the energy density is higher. While this happens, the southern pole is pointing away from the Sun, so the Sun’s energy is spread over a larger area, causing cooler average temperatures.
Our planet has one moon that is the fifth largest natural satellite in the solar system; it orbits the Earth every 28 days. The Moon is tidally locked to the Earth, meaning that the same side of the Moon always faces the us. The way the Moon looks night to night changes; this is due to the Moon's position relative to the Sun and the Earth. The amount of the surface of the Moon which is illuminated never changes; what does change is the amount of the illuminated surface that we can see from Earth. These changes are known as the phases of the moon.
Exploration of the Moon started in 1959 when the space probe Luna 2 was launched by the Soviet Union. The space probe crashed onto the surface of the Moon carrying out some experiments on its journey there. The first probe to land on the Moon (as opposed to crash landing) was the Luna 9 Lander and it was able to transmit pictures back to Earth. The most famous Lunar mission of all was Apollo 11 when Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon in 1969 and became the first human to land on the surface of another astronomical body. Armstrong was accompanied by Buzz Aldrin to the surface while Michael Collins piloted the command module the orbited the Moon. They brought back over 21 kg of samples from the lunar surface. In total, 12 Astronauts have walked on the surface on the Moon, with the last mission returning in December 1972.
It is important to note and to remind students that none of the diagrams of the Earth, Moon, or Sun are made to scale. This is done intentionally to aid with conceptual understanding.
Essential Questions for Earth and Moon
Why does the Moon looking different night to night?
Why do we have seasons?
How can we see the Moon?
What is the difference between orbit, rotation, and revolution?
Earth and Moon Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers
In this activity students will create a model to explain each of the phases of the Moon.
The phases of the Moon are caused by the motion of the Moon around the Earth relative to the Sun. As the Moon moves around the Earth, parts of it are illuminated and others are in shadows. The Moon takes 28 days to make a full orbit of the Earth. During this time, the Moon looks different from Earth depending on its position.
The first stage is the New Moon. This occurs when the Moon is directly between the Earth and the Sun. As the Moon then moves around the Earth, the amount of the illuminated surface seen from the Earth increases, and this is known as waxing, first as a Waxing Crescent, and then as the First Quarter. The quarter refers to the progress through the Moon’s cycle. After this, more than half the illuminated Moon can be seen as we move into the Waxing Gibbous phase. When the Moon reaches the other side of the Earth and is opposite the Sun, it is known as a Full Moon. This is where the full moon disc is fully illuminated. After this point, the Moon is said to be waning. This means the amount of the illuminated Moon surface that we can see from Earth decreases. The Moon then passes through the Waning Gibbous phase. When it reaches the Last Quarter stage, half of the illuminated surface is visible from Earth. The last phase is the Waning Crescent stage. The moon then starts its cycle again in the New Moon phase.
Note: The moon appears different in the sky depending on the hemisphere. The example storyboard shows both Northern and Southern Hemispheres, but the activity template and instructions only call for one hemisphere.
Have your students put key vocabulary into practice. One of the things students can find really difficult is using scientific vocabulary correctly and in the appropriate context. Using a visual representation or visual examples as well as a written one can really help students understand abstract concepts.
Example Earth and Moon Vocabulary
Gravity is an attractive force between two or more bodies that have mass. The more mass an object has, the greater the force.
The Equator is the imaginary line drawn around the middle of the Earth, equidistant between the two poles.
Poles are the two locations where the Earth’s rotational axis passes through the Earth’s surface.
Reflection is when a wave is bounced off an object without being absorbed.
A satellite is an object that orbits a planet, like a moon.
Discussion storyboards are a great way to get your students talking about their ideas in Science. They allow students to critique and evaluate different viewpoints without upsetting other students. This activity can be used at the start of the topic to elicit any misconceptions students may have.
At first, show students a discussion storyboard like the one below. Ask them to look at the problem on the discussion storyboard. It shows four students who all have an idea about the problem in front of them. Students should think about who they think is the most correct and be prepared to explain why that person is correct.
Here are some other ideas to use these discussion storyboards in your lessons.
Students add another cell on the end of the example you’ve given them to explain who they think is correct and why.
Students create their own discussion storyboards to share with peers on the current topic.
Note that the template in this assignment is blank. After clicking "Copy Assignment", add your desired problem and solutions to match the needs of your students.
Many people incorrectly believe that the reason the average temperatures are colder during the winters and warmer during the summer is due to the changing distance between the Earth and the Sun. This simply is not true. In fact, the surface of the Earth in the Northern Hemisphere is closer to the Sun during winter than summer because of Earth's elliptical orbit.
The Earth rotates about an axis, or imaginary line that runs through the center of the Earth. The Earth’s axis is not perfectly straight up and down; it is about 23.5° off the vertical. This means the South and North Pole face towards and away from the Sun as Earth makes its way around the Sun during the year. During summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. When it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere. During summer months, the Sun’s rays hit the hemisphere more directly, so the rays are spread over a smaller area. During winter months, the opposite happens and the rays from the Sun are less concentrated.
(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)
Make a storyboard to explain what causes seasons on Earth. Use a series of scenes, props, labels, and shapes to create a model to explain the existence of seasons. Explain summer and winter in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
Create a diagram with Earth and the Sun.
Use arrows, lines, and shapes to show how sunlight reaches Earth.
Explain what causes summer and winter in the description box.
Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.