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Welcome to the Moon! - a Comprehensive Lesson Plan All About the Moon

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This lesson plan is designed for middle school science students between the ages of 10 and 15

The moon is an enigma. It's just too darn big to be orbiting our planet and even with the theories behind its creation, it seems unfathomable that we have this massive object zipping around Earth every day. The moon is approximately 1/4 the diameter of Earth, making it one of the larger planetary orbiters out there in proportion to the planet. There are heaps of surprises (one could say craters) one learns when they start diving deep into what we currently know and understand about the moon. Ask a friend to accurately describe how we can see the lunar phases day in and day out. Better yet, start off by asking them when the moon typically rises. I bet that if they don't understand the first question they will answer at sunset for the latter question. Most adults can't explain how it is possible that we see only one side of the moon, even more didn't even know that we see only one side of the moon. So here's the thing... if you present these ideas and questions to a group of young minds you are bound to get kids excited. The moon is a perfect object to first get kids excited about space science, mainly because it is so easy to see and investigate (at least visually).

I have been teaching middle school space science for the past thirteen years and always found the discussions in our class that were centered around the moon to be some of the most meaningful. Kids always have a level of thoughtful intrigue with the moon because it's just so darn alien to us. It leaves lot's of what-ifs and how-cans. Because of the obvious level of intrigue my students expressed I thought it would be prudent to create a comprehensive lesson plan that begins with the very basics of the moon and progressively moves along the lines to more complex concepts involving Earth's nearest neighbor. The work I am presenting here took approximately 120 hours to complete and has now been successfully used by numerous colleagues of mine. I am providing the entire lesson plan, which, if completed from start to finish, can take an entire month. I am providing all of the materials I have created with this lesson plan along with some additional lessons I used to get things off on the right foot.

I am not going to go through each page of the teacher instructions since it is neatly written in order in the packet provided, instead I am going to go through each "phase" of the lesson and give you some basic information to help guide you.

Step 1: Format of the guide

Picture of Format of the guide

Format of this Guide:

Students will use a “student packet” throughout the entire lesson which clearly follows along with the material the teacher presents. The teacher will present the material using a PowerPoint presentation or Google Presentation. Using this format helps keep both the student and teacher organized throughout the entire curriculum. The student packet completely replaces note-taking and if wanted, summative assessments in the form of quizzes and tests. Although there are no extension activities taken out of the classroom during the lesson such as homework or short research projects, the curriculum is easily adaptable to additional assignments. There will be examples and additional information of extension found in the supplemental information section of this guide. There are three distinct sections (phases) separating the curriculum. The first phase (“New Moon”) focuses on basic concepts necessary for later understandings along with pre-assessment activities to hook student interest. There is an additional section that focuses on how scientific laws compare to scientific theories. The main purpose of this is to help students understand why we discuss the explanation for the formation of the Moon as “theoretical” and not fact. This understanding also helps students understand why much of what they are learning is still up for alterations and changes if new discoveries or findings are made. The first phase starts with a “KWL- What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I Learned” chart to help jump start the lesson. It is suggested that the teacher effectively use this chart by having students go the “L” or “What I Learned” section each time something new is learned to insert the information and keep a sequential timeline of what the class has learned. The second phase (“Quarter Moon”) is where the real meat of the curriculum is discovered. The second phase is broken down into five sections: Our Moon's composition Our Moon's period of rotation (day and night cycle) and our Moon's period of revolution (year) Scale: Our Moon's position in space relative to the Earth and the sun (angle and distance) Lunar and solar eclipses and the Moon's involvement Our Moon's apparent "phases" as viewed from Earth and Space Each section is prerequisite to the following section and helps foster a complete understanding of the Moon, ultimately leading up to the final assessment. Students follow along with the lessons and activities in their student packet. With phase two of the student packet students will first work on a “what do you think?” to pre-assess their understandings. After the short pre-assessment and discussion the students will have a set of questions to answer based upon the information presented on the teacher presentation. Most sections will have a “challenge” directly after the questions. The challenges will often incorporate applicative thinking and mathematics based upon the information the students just learned. After the challenge students will work on two or more “focus questions” to assess their complete understanding of the topic. It is suggested that the teacher uses the focus questions as a form of summative assessment, although some modification might be necessary for students with disabilities. This section relies heavily on student interaction and group work and it is suggest that students work with multiple partners to experience different learning methods and various ideas. Students can work in groups of 2 - 4 for most of the activities. Many of the activities are adapted from tested and proven lessons found in the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) publication Science Scope. I have used these these activities for four or more years and have found great success over that time. The third and final phase (“Full Moon”) completely involves the application of what the students learned during the entire lesson through the creation of a “Moon Story Book”. One of the best ways to determine if a student completely understands the material is to have the student teach it. This idea helped develop the “You Learn. You Teach.” method used in this guide. In this case students will be teaching through writing a book appropriate for fourth grade students. This involves a hefty amount of literacy know-how and application so it is recommended that the teacher acquires the help of any literacy professionals in the school. This final phase can be completed mostly in class with the initial brainstorming and rough draft but I have had students complete the final draft of the book as an out of class project due to the time it takes to create a quality product. This does pose some problems with group projects assigned out of class, so this will be at the teacher’s discretion. Accompanying this curriculum is the entire lesson for the “You Teach. You Learn. Moon Story Book” along with the rubric used to grade the final product. What follows are details to help the teacher effectively take full advantage of this curriculum. Teachers can access the presentation either through PowerPoint or Google Presentation. The other material can be accessed through PDF files and/or Google Documents. There are some materials necessary for this curriculum, which are not included such as rock samples, videos and other various products. It is recommended that the teacher review the entire guide prior to starting the curriculum to insure that all materials can be secured easily (by the way, they are all inexpensive and pretty easy to find). The guide is organized in the order explained above and includes a section of supplemental information to help find additional resources, materials and extension activities. I hope that you find this guide of great use to you and your students and if you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to email me at chris_stark@wrsd.net

Biodynamic6 days ago
This is awesome! Thank you for sharing. I plan to use this next school year with my 7th graders. Your recognition is well deserved. Looking forward to seeing some of your other lessons when you get around to posting.
ctstarkdesigns (author)  Biodynamic2 days ago
Thank you so much! I am happy that you will find good use for the lessons and please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions you might come across.
ctstarkdesigns (author) 18 days ago
Thank you so much for the comment! This is probably one of my favorite lessons to teach my students and I was hoping it would benefit other teachers who teach the same curriculum. I always appreciate the positive feedback... I have a few more lessons I am going to try and post during the summer, one that I am super excited about.
This is comprehensive for sure! Love it!!! Thank you for including so many great resources. The teacher guide - awesome! The Slides - awesome! The student packet - awesome! It's ALL here and it's ALL super awesome!!! :D