The society for Popular Astronomy is organising a Moonwatch event which starts this Wednesday (17th) and runs until the following Sunday. During this time the Moon will go through a number of phases from crescent to full.
They have a website dedicated to the event which encourages teachers to study the Moon with their classes as it is visible after school from about 4:30pm onwards. They advise using a telescope or binoculars if you want to study the surface of the Moon and have pages on the website which detail the features that you will be able to spot.
Teaching idea and resources
Inspired by the Moonwatch event I have uploaded a Moonwatch PowerPoint which contains some simple starter questions which can be used with a class when studying the solar system.
When I taught this in the past I used to tell my class that the Moon changed shape because it is made from cheese and space mice ate it. When the whole Moon was eaten it disappeared, only to be replaced by a new ball of cheese from the Mouse God who lived behind the sun. Of course – they told me that this was total rubbish but it made them think when I asked them how they were so sure – what proof did they have that my theory was wrong?
There is also a moon phases worksheet that asks students to predict what the Moon will look like from Earth during various points during its orbit. They can check their answers by watching one of the animations linked below.
If you want your students to take part in the Moonwatch event but don’t have the equipment to view the moon, why not ask the students to complete a ‘Moon diary’ for the event? They can view the Moon every night at home and then draw each phase. You can then use their observations as a basis for discussion in the classroom.
The Moonwatch week website
Simple animation showing the phases of the moon. Suitable for KS2/3 students.
More complicated animation suitable for high ability KS3 students and KS4.