The Universe in the Classroom

Storytelling Activities

To help you get started we are providing you with three short pieces to use with your students. As you begin to find your own niche as a storyteller and astronomer, you will gravitate toward the type of story with which you are most comfortable and eventually build your own repertoire of stories. We've also included a bibliography of resource material that will provide you with the background knowledge to the principles that you and your students will be investigating. Don't be afraid to learn and wonder along with them. Rather, embrace that opportunity!

Moon Story

moon
Oh, glorious Moon!
As I gaze on your face
It comes to my mind
That never shall I gaze
On your glorious behind.

--Anonymous
The above ditty will make children giggle, and they'll learn to retell it in no time. There is a lesson in the poem, however: We on Earth always see the same side of the Moon because the Moon rotates exactly once and revolves exactly once in a month. Below is a plan for using this poem as a viable teaching tool with your students.

Grades K-2

Knowledge Objectives:
  • the Moon is a sphere, and when we look upon a sphere we are only able to see a circle (or a "face" )
  • from night to night the Moon might look different, but it is always the same Moon
  • we always see the same side of the "Moonball"
Story setting:
  • the sky
Characters:
  • the Moon
Problem:
  • why do we only see one side of the "Moonball"?
Solution:
  • see activity
Activities:
  • have children make a styrofoam ball with a creative face of the Moon on one "side" and a behind on the other
  • have children hold the ball out in front of them and rotate around in a circle
  • to see that although they will always see only the face, the ball's behind does exist
  • have children retell the rhyme
Outcome:
  • children learn that the Moon is a sphere, and we always see the same side

Grades 3-5

Knowledge Objectives:
  • the spherical Moon rotates exactly once and revolves around the Earth exactly once per month as the Earth rotates on its own axis and revolves around the Sun
Problem:
  • why do we only see one side of the Moon?
Solution:
  • see "Activities"below
Activities:
  • have groups of students build models of the Earth/Moon system (see references for classroom activities to find suitable activities of this sort)
  • using the model, have students simulate the coordinated movements (rotations and revolutions) of the Moon and Earth to discover the phenomenon of always seeing the same side of the Moon from Earth
  • have children retell the rhyme
Outcome:
  • children learn that the same side of the Moon always faces us because of the Moon's monthly cycle of rotation and revolution

Grades 6-8

Knowledge Objectives:
  • the light from the Sun is responsible for the amount of the Moon we actually see from night to night
Problem:
  • why do we only see one side of the Moon?
  • why do we not see the whole face of the Moon every night?
Solution:
  • see"Activities"below
Activities:
  • have children build the model suggested for grades 3-5 and include a flashlight to simulate the Sun's light
  • have students use the model to coordinate the motions of the Earth and Moon with the Sun's light to discover not only why we see only one side of the Moon, but also why we see different Moon phases from Earth
  • tell a story about the phases of the Moon
  • challenge children to invent their own stories about the Moon's patterns of motion and how we are affected by them on Earth
Outcome:
  • children learn that the Moon is always facing us because of its monthly cycle of rotation and revolution, and that the Sun affects how much of the Moon we see each night

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