Lunar Phases LPIScience lessons beyond the Eclipse

The eclipse offers an engagement point to explore the motion of the Earth, sun, and moon and improve spatial and causal reasoning of celestial motions. These activities connect familiar phenomena such as seasons, eclipses, and moon phases from both an Earth and space perspective to improve understanding of how rotation and revolution can change the appearance of the sun and moon. Use of 3D demonstrations can enrich explanations of celestial motion that can difficult to interpret from illustrations alone. Developing a spatial reasoning behind Earth, moon, and sun motions can help with understanding more complex concepts such as the causes of seasons.

Earth, Sun, and Moon motions (Earth-based observations)

Ages 4-11

Ages 10-14

Ages 13-18

Cookie Moon Phases

Use a classic sandwich cookie (like Oreo brand) to illustrate the phases of the moon and connect to observations. See also: Lunar Phase Sheets (Lunar and Planetary Institute)

Phases of the Moon

Illustrate the phases of the moon with paper plates. Create a three dimensional model of the lunar phases relative to the Earth and sun. Children construct a conceptual model through kinesthetic activities. (Lunar Planetary Institute)


Golf Ball Phases

Explore the dynamics of lunar phases to develop an understanding of the relative positions of our moon, Earth, and sun that cause the phases of the moon as viewed from Earth. Using a golf ball glowing under the ultraviolet light (“blacklight”) makes it easier to see the phases of the moon. (Lunar and Planetary Institute)



Earth, Moon, and Sun motions (space-based perspective)

Ages 4-11

Ages 10-14

Ages 13-18

Modeling Motions of the Earth, Moon, and Sun.

This kinesthetic activity invites learners to use their bodies to model how these celestial bodies move relative to each other. Offers a 3D demonstration for understanding of the causes of the day/night cycle, the seasons and the cycle of lunar phases. (PUMAS)

The Cause of the phases of the Moon.

This learner-centered activity invites the child to figure out the positioning of a ball (moon) to a light source (sun). The child constructs their knowledge of what causes the lunar phases. This activity can also be preceded with a month of moon-watching and recording first hand observations.


The Moon Orbits the Sun.

Construct a model to demonstrate the moon’s orbit around the sun. Learners will also compare the strengths of the gravitational forces exerted on the moon by the sun and by the Earth. (PUMAS)




Ages 4-11

Ages 10-14

Ages 13-18

MY NASA DATA – Seasons

In this data analysis activity, students connect the idea of the tilt and orbit of the Earth (changing of seasons) with monthly snow/ice data. Children under 8 may need additional assistance.  (MY NASA DATA)


Science of the Sun

Multiple activities exploring how the Earth’s tilt, orbit, and angle of the sun’s rays influence temperature between seasons and latitudes. Investigate how Earth’s orbit as an ellipse (p. 27), construct a sun angle analyzer (p. 33), and act out the rotation and revolution motions of Earth around the sun (p.51) in kinesthetic Astronomy (NASA, Science of the sun)

The Solstices

In this data analysis activity, students compare near surface temperature at the time of the solstices in two different hemispheres, and see how the tilt of the Earth's axis in relationship to the sun contributes to temperature differences across the planet. (MY NASA DATA)

Reasons for the Seasons

Compare the seasons though identifying seasonal activities and drawing scenes in each season. Then, they compare the temperature on thermometers left under a lamp for different lengths of time to explore how Earth heats more when the sun is in the sky for longer periods of time. Finally, learners use a flashlight and a globe to investigate how the spherical shape of Earth causes the seasons to be opposite in each hemisphere. This hands-on activity is an additional lesson as part of the book, Adventures in the Attic.


Why is Summer Hot?

This activity, effective outdoors or indoors, demonstrates how insolation is affected by latitude by using a pair of thermometers, each taped to some cardboard, placed outside on a sunny day. (PUMAS)

Plotting the motion of the Sun

Learners will examine the location and height of the sun relative to the seasons. (Astronomical Society of the Pacific)

nasa wavelengthFor a curated list of these lessons and more science resources for your homeschooling needs, visit