One of the hardest science concepts to teach well is moon phases and patterns in the sky. It’s a 4th grade science standard here in Texas and it’s tested on our 5th grade science STAAR test. Every year my kids struggle with this. Every. Stinking. Year. Last week I noticed my father-in-law had a digital clock that also showed the current moon phase. I’d never seen such magic. After resisting the urge to “borrow” it, I headed to Amazon to find one of my own, and I found something better–Uncle Milton’s Moon In My Room(On sale and I only paid $15.99!). It’s pretty much as described. A model of the moon for your room that you can control with a remote. Here’s a video you can watch so you can see for yourself how spectacular this gadget is.
What I like and how I plan to use it:
The plastic moon is 3D, bumpy, and looks pretty realistic. We’ll have to pass it around so the kids can feel the surface.
It’s easy to use. You push a button on the remote to change phases and you can cycle through several times to help the kids see the pattern (much more important than just memorizing phase names). Or, you can push the automatic button and the moon will cycle through all phases on its own.
I think we’ll hang a chart beside the moon for the kids to use to help identify the phases, then turn off the lights and quiz ourselves to practice. Waxing gibbous, first quarter, waning crescent…oh the fun we’ll have!
Students can draw the moon they see at night in their moon journals, and we’ll match our classroom moon to the current moon phase.
Here’s a few photos I took while playing with the moon! First, before I unboxed it. Second, the full moon lit up with the remote beside it. Third, a waning crescent moon with the remote.
What I don’t like:
The model moon lights up. This is only a problem because I worry my students will think the real moon makes it’s own light. Not true. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce the limitations of models to students. Teachable moment!
I will probably lose the remote and it won’t work without it.
I’ll come back and post an update in a few weeks to let you know what my students think. If you’re looking for more Shut Up and Take My Money posts on cool things to buy for your classroom, hop on over and read about the Amazing Moving Plant and theCircuit Scribe.
–The Pensive Sloth
***NOTE–I was NOT paid and am not affiliated with any of the above groups. I’m just a teacher-consumer interested in new tools to make learning fun for my students!***
My 4th graders are starting a unit on renewable and nonrenewable resources. I wanted to get my kids thinking about where the things around us come from and decided to try this activity as the ENGAGE part of the lesson. I also wanted to know how much they already knew! It turns out nobody has any idea where plastic comes from. Back to the lesson… so, I taped a photo of a school bus to some chart paper and had students sketch a bus in their science notebooks. Then, we worked together to label what materials the bus was made of. Simple enough. Rubber tires, glass windows, leather seat covers (not really, but it worked for the lesson), cotton stuffing in the seats, metal engine, gasoline in the tank, etc. I told them we must label everything! While the gas isn’t actually part of the bus, I prompted that one. I needed a launching pad for a future fossil fuels lesson.
I guess since plastic looks like glass, several students thought it came from sand, too.
My next question was, “So where do we get glass for the windows? Rubber for the tires? Gas for the tank? Cotton for the stuffing?” and so on. Now this got them thinking. Luckily we read about how glass is made before the holiday break. SAND! But what about the rest of the stuff? This prompted great discussions and questions. We returned to our chart. Beneath each label we listed where that materials came from, and if we didn’t know, we made our best guess and put a question mark beside it. We’ll revisit the chart and make changes after we learn where the materials actually come from. Moving forward, as we explore renewable and nonrenewable resources, we can go back and decide which materials on the bus can be renewed in our lifetime and which can not.