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31 Ways to Bring Lunar Science into Your Classroom

The Moon is a constant celestial companion in classrooms around the world. Lunar phenomena has much to offer teachers as both an engaging narrative and visible presence in the sky that students have personally experienced.

NASA Planetary Geologist and Space Educator, Andrea Jones, knows firsthand the opportunities that the Moon holds for teachers. “Right now, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program. We have an international fleet of robotic lunar explorers that are reshaping what we thought we knew about the Moon. And, we are preparing to return, with people. It’s a great time for the Moon, and a great time to bring the Moon into every classroom!”

Take your Students on Virtual Field Trips
Find a curated list of media-rich and interactive resources from PBS LearningMedia and NASA—there’s something for every K-12 teacher. Use these resources as a tool for modeling, visualization, discussion, scaffolding, and data collection and analysis. Whether your students have never heard about the Apollo missions, or you happen to have a picture of the Moon somewhere on your classroom wall, consider bringing some of these Moon themes and connections into your instruction!

International Observe the Moon Night is Oct 5, 2019
A great place to kick-off your exploration or a unit about the Moon is on International Observe the Moon Night— a global celebration of lunar science and exploration, celestial observing, and our cultural and personal connections to the Moon. One day a year, everyone is invited to go out and look, learn and celebrate the Moon in some way.

Everyone can get in on this celebration. Use the excitement to unite around the lunar theme, and then use the momentum and the resources below to engage your students and school with the narratives of the Moon this Oct 5 (and the school year ahead)!

 For schools that wish to host International Observe the Moon Night events, the program website includes an event planning guide with tips, advertising materials, and links to connect with local partners (such as a local astronomy club or NASA Solar System Ambassador, should you want community support). Each event is unique: you should plan yours to fit the needs, interests, and resources available to your school. It can either be public (so anyone can join you) or private (your address will not be shared).

For more information, event materials, and activities, visit moon.nasa.gov/observe


The Phases of the Moon: Phenomena of the Earth-Moon-Sun System
As someone who taught astronomy for many years in New York City, I understand the challenge of supporting students in making observations of the Moon (or any celestial phenomena!). It might be easily visible in the sky, but the patterns demand observations at night and over a period of time that is difficult to sustain. The following media resources enable active student engagement in observing patterns over time of the Moon in the sky—day and night—for students of all ages.

Modeling Moon Phases and Lunar Eclipses
Key science practices that pair with Moon phenomena are observing patterns and making and using models. With younger students, focus on making observations to describe patterns. Older students can also start with pattern recognition, and then use models of the Earth-Sun-Moon system to make predictions and explanations. Manipulating their own models allows students to discover for themselves how Moon phases, and eclipses, work. Teaching phases and eclipses together helps address student misconceptions about these concepts more effectively than teaching them in isolation.

Engineering a (Lunar) Landing
Landing astronauts safely on the Moon and returning them to Earth is still one of the most amazing (engineering) feats in human history.

A Story of Human Exploration
The Apollo program was a fantastic achievement of humanity, and one that connected and inspired people around the world. Robotic lunar explorers build on this legacy today, and preparations are underway to send people back to the Moon through NASA’s Artemis program. These resources examine the history and humanity of this global endeavor. 

Lunar Science and Geology
Fifty years ago this year, the Apollo missions began a new era of lunar science. 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of Moon rocks were gathered and returned to Earth and the first scientist (a geologist!) walked on the Moon. Through new sensors and imaging technologies, we continue to see new and amazing views of our closest celestial neighbor. We are building on the legacy of Apollo, reshaping our understanding of our nearest celestial neighbor, and preparing to safely land the next astronauts on the Moon in areas of rich scientific interest. We’ve found evidence of recent volcanism, a shrinking Moon, many new impact craters, and multiple lines of evidence for water on the Moon (particularly at the poles). The following resources help bring these up-close and dynamic views and data from the Moon into your Earth and Space science instruction.

“Making” and the Moon: Art and STEAM Activities
Art and science are deeply intertwined. Images and datasets that help us learn about the Moon – and everything in the universe – can be both scientifically rich and stunningly beautiful. Art can inspire science, as science can inspire art. Art can make scientific information easier to understand, and provide different pathways to connect with scientific phenomena.

Andrea Jones and Dr. Rachel Connolly -

Andrea Jones is a planetary geologist and the public engagement lead of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She shares NASA planetary science research and discoveries with audiences around the country and the world. Andrea is the public engagement lead for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and director of International Observe the Moon Night, an annual worldwide celebration of lunar and planetary science as well as our personal and cultural connections to the Moon.

Dr. Rachel Connolly is the director of STEM education for WGBH and PBS LearningMedia™. Rachel is the principal investigator for the Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project. After teaching high school physics in New York City, Rachel moved into teacher professional development and educational programming at the American Museum of Natural History. Her work with the Hayden Planetarium sparked a love of data visualization that led to graduate work at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her work focuses on designing media-integrated educational experiences that leverage emerging formats of scientific data for innovative instruction.

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