Hop on a rocket ship and in three days we will reach Earth’s only natural satellite, the moon! It’s the only other place that humans have set foot on outside of Earth. Learn about the moon’s different “faces” in these moon phases for kids lessons and activities.
What are moon phases?
Each night the moon looks a little different. These changes in shape are called moon phases. The Moon itself isn’t actually changing, but the part that we see does! Just like the Earth, the moon can’t make its own light. The only light in our solar system comes from the Sun. What we see as “moonlight” is sunlight reflecting off the moon’s surface. The Sun’s light always comes from one direction and light’s up the part of the moon that is facing it. As the moon travels its orbit around the Earth, the sun lights up different parts. Sometimes it lights up the whole face of the moon that faces us (full moon), while other times we can see only a sliver. It takes about 27 days for the moon to complete one orbit around the Earth, but because we are also moving in our own orbit around the Sun, from Earth’s perspective it takes 29 days for the moon to finish its lunar cycle. Tricky!
Activity: create a moon phase calendar and calculator
Visit NASA’s website for this handy moon phase calendar viewing wheel tool. They have all the dates and times already worked out for us this year. Check back again for their updated calendar in 2022.
Did you know our moon is always turning to show us the same face? We only get to see one side of the moon. This is the result of tidal locking. It takes the same amount of time for the moon to spin one turn on its axis as it takes for it to orbit once around the Earth. We call the side of the moon facing us the “near side” and the opposite side, the “far side”.
There are 8 moon phases in the lunar cycle:
1. New Moon
The New Moon happens when the moon is between the sun and the earth. From our view, the sun is behind the moon leaving the side that faces us dark. It rises at sunrise and sets at sunset. This photo is just after the new moon when only a sliver is starting to become visible.
2. Waxing Crescent
In the Waxing Crescent phase, the part of the moon that is facing us gets more sunlight each night making more of the moon light up. Waxing means to grow. The crescent moon is any time less than half the moon is visible.
3. First Quarter
At the First Quarter phase, the moon has finished 1/4 of its orbit and is perpendicular to the line between the Earth and the Sun. We see half the moon lit up by the Sun while the other half stays in shadow. It rises at noon and sets at midnight.
4. Waxing Gibbous
In the Waxing Gibbous phase, we see the moon’s lit shape continue to grow up to 99.9%.
5. Full Moon
The Full Moon occurs when the Earth is between the moon and the Sun which lights up the moon’s whole face. It has travelled 1/2 of its orbit, rising at sunset and setting around sunrise.
6. Waning Gibbous
In the Waning Gibbous phase, the moon starts to get less sunlight each night and shrinks from 99.9% to 50.1%. Waning means to get smaller.
7. Third Quarter
The Third or Last Quarter phase is when the other half of the moon is lit up by the Sun. It has now finished 3/4 of its trip around the Earth and sits at a 90-degree angle to the Sun. This is also sometimes called a half moon, rising at midnight and setting at noon.
8. Waning Crescent
The last phase is the Waning Crescent phase. The moon’s lit shape gradually gets smaller until the shape of the moon disappears completely (new moon).
Activity: make a moon phases spinner
Encourage your children to learn the Lunar cycle with this spinner craft.
- Free Moon Phases Cycle Spinner template
- split pins
- glue, markers
Join the list at the end of this post to download your free Moon Phases Cycle Spinner and print on cardstock. If you are already a subscriber, find this and all our other free printables on our community page (check your last Newsletter for the link). Cut out each template and all the moon phase images. Help your child match and glue the moon phases onto the labeled base of your spinner. Attach the top and bottom in the center with a split pin then try to answer the moon phase fact questions!
Activity: watercolor resist moon phase cards inspired by @magichomeschoolbus
• watercolour paints
• watercolour paper or heavy cardstock
• white wax crayon
• circle template (cup works)
1. Divide your paper sheet into quarters and cut. Make 8 pieces in total.
2. Help your child label each of the cards at the bottom in their best hand writing. Draw a circle above each label once you are done.
3. Use your white crayon to color in the section of the moon that is visible in each moon phase. For example, you would color the left half of your moon shape for the first quarter. For our younger learners, try using a light grey crayon so they can see their work.
4. Paint over your moon phase with your watercolors, using a dark blue or even black will really make their moon shapes stand out. Let dry and then display.
Activity: moon phase journal tracker
There is nothing more magical than taking a moon lit walk with our children. They think they are the luckiest kids in the world to be able to sneak out past their bedtime and find that beautiful moon in the sky. Sign up for our newsletter at the end of this post to get your Free Moon Journal to sketch and record your observations throughout the month. Of course, there will be some times of the month when our moon rises too late or the clouds are too thick. At these times head over to https://moonphases.co.uk/ to discover what the moon looks like today.
If you are looking for more hands-on learning materials, check out the other activities included in the Moon Phases Unit Study ($5.50 US) available in our ETSY shop. This 38 paged unit features watercolor moon phase posters, learning guide, flashcards, 3-part cards, art appreciation, poetry, copywork, games, and more! Use the code MOONWALK to get 15% off all the “moon phases” listings this week until September 19th, 2021.
What are solar and lunar eclipses?
Every year we get to witness two different types of eclipses, the solar eclipse and the lunar eclipse. In a solar eclipse the moon travels between the Sun and the Earth, blocking some or even all of the sun from view. There are three types of solar eclipses:
- Total solar eclipses can be seen from just a small area on Earth. These people are standing completely in the moon’s shadow. This can only happen when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are in a direct line.
- Partial solar eclipse occurs when the Sun, Moon, and Earth are not perfectly aligned. It looks like a small dark area is on the Sun.
- Annular eclipse occurs when the moon is at its farthest point from the Earth. The moon does not block all of the sun but shows a thin ring of light around its darker shadow.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth, traveling on its own orbit, passes between the Sun and the moon. The Earth blocks the Sun’s light and casts a shadow on the moon. As the moon travels through this shadow (called umbra) the moon dims until it passes through. This can only happen during the full moon phase. In a total lunar eclipse, the only light that reaches the moon is indirect sunlight reflected off of Earth’s atmosphere. This filters out a lot of the blue light which makes the moon look red, often called a Blood moon.
Activity: witness a solar eclipse
Learn more about this amazing event from National Geographic and see the effects of a solar eclipse.
Activity: Moon Nature Poetry and Copywork Free Download
Head over to our Nature Poetry and Copywork page to download your free Moon Themed poetry and copywork to complement your moon phase studies!
What is a Supermoon?
The moon’s orbit around the Earth is shaped like an oval, bringing it closer and father from us as it travels around. When the moon is at its fathers point to the Earth, it is called the apogee while we call its closet point the perigee. When a full moon happens during the perigee, its called a Supermoon because it is just a little big bigger (7%) and can look brighter in the sky.
Activity: moon tales
Ever heard of or seen the man on the moon? People have been looking at the different patterns on the moon’s face for generations and creating stories about the moon’s creation and role in our universe. Learn about the moon myths from around the world in this activity from NASA and follow their challenge to create their own. Make sure you share your stories with us on our Instagram or Facebook accounts! We would love to hear them.
Activity: moon painting tutorial
Celebrate what we have learned with this beautiful step-by-step acrylic painting tutorial of the moon. Use the photo of the moon from your Moon Myths from Around the World activity (see link above) to help you add in all those interesting dark and light shapes that make up the moon’s crater.
Visit: How to paint the moon
What is it like on the moon?
A trip to the moon is almost like stepping back in time. Here on Earth, plate tectonics, erosion, and our weather forces like wind and water are constantly moving things around and breaking things down. The moon doesn’t have any of these elements. In fact, the footprints from the Apollo astronauts first visit in 1969 are still perfectly preserved and will be for millions of years!
There are two types of terrain on the moon. When we look at the moon we can see the lighter mountainous, deeply cratered highlands and the darker, smoother lowlands called “maria” (Latin for sea). Unlike Earth, the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere to burn up meteors or space objects traveling towards it. Anything heading in its direction will hit the surface. We see the impact craters and the star burst like cascade of debris. The darker shapes (maria) are actually huge impact craters that filled up with lava then hardened billions of years ago. None of the volcanoes on the moon are still active but they have certainly left their mark.
Activity – moon crater experiment
Follow this TVO experiment to make your own moon craters and see why the surface of the moon looks the way it does today!
Activity: make moon rocks!
Make these DIY moon rocks from thecraftingchicks.com to add into your sensory bin this week.
Visit: DIY Moon Rocks
Walking on the moon
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step on the moon. He and fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin explored the surface for three hours, collecting specimens and conducting experiments. Since then a total of tweve people have done the “moon walk”. The Earth only has about 1/6th of Earth’s gravitational force. This means we weigh a lot less on the moon and are able to leap great bounds with just a little step. Fun!
In an interview, astronaut Buzz Aldrin describe his experience of the moon: “It has lots of fine, talcum-powder like dust mixed with a complete variety of pebbles, rocks, and boulders…The dust is a very fine, overall dark gray. And with no air molecules to separate the dust, it clings together like cement. If you examine it under a microscope, you can see it’s made up of tiny, solidified droplets of vaporized rock resulting from extreme velocity impacts, like an asteroid from outer space hitting the surface over millions of years”
Activity – learn about the moon landings
Explore this interactive map from the Smithsonian of of all 21 successful moon landings!
Activity – create scale models of the Earth to the moon
The moon is the fifth largest moon in our solar system. With a diameter of 3, 475 km it is about 27% the width of the Earth. It’s surface area is almost 38 million square kilometers. This sounds huge but it’s less than the continent of Asia which has 44.5 million square km, and only 7.4% the surface area of the whole Earth (about 510 million square km). Check out this chart by NASA comparing more measurements of the moon and the Earth. This is a great opportunity for some nature math. Compare each category of numbers to calculate the ratio or percentage of the moon to Earth and then draw or use playdough to create your own “to scale” models of these two celestial bodies.
Read: Earth’s Moon
Activity: design your own lunar colony
Design a new lunar colony on the moon. What type of facilities would you need? How would you get food? What type of environment would you be living in? Where would you get your water? Would you design your facility with a gravity generator or not? If you have vehicles, how would they operate? What type of activities would you do? Moon mountain climbing? What would this look like? Draw your colony design and present your proposal to your family!
Book Basket Ideas
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Our favorite nonfiction and picture books about the moon:
Enjoy your moon week!