Students use their knowledge of the phases of the Moon to assemble a printable Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator. They can then use the tool to look up the phase of the Moon for any day of the year and predict when and where the Moon will be visible.
- Some students, especially younger ones, may not have the fine motor skills required to complete some of the hole-punching, cutting, and taping required. Be prepared to provide assistance as appropriate for your students.
- Brass fasteners are recommended, but other means of fastening together the pieces of the calendar while still allowing them to rotate can be used (e.g., buttons placed on the top and bottom of the calendar and sewn together or a paperclip folded to function like a fastener).
- To conserve printer ink, use the low-ink version of the template.
- The video tutorial available below can be used to prepare for the activity and as a guide for students.
- The Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator is designed for use in the northern hemisphere. All times on the calendar are approximate and listed in standard time. During daylight saving time, add one hour for a more accurate Moon-viewing time.
Moon phases are the different amounts of illumination we see on the Moon from our perspective on Earth. They are the result of the relative positions of the Sun, Moon, and Earth as the Moon orbits our planet over a period of about 29.5 days.
A complete lunar cycle starts with a new moon, then progresses through seven more distinct phases before returning to the new moon phase. During the new moon phase, the Moon is between the Sun and Earth. We don’t see it because the side facing Earth is not lit by the sun and because it is so bright outside.
As the Moon orbits Earth, viewers see the side of the Moon facing Earth become more illuminated as it goes through its phases. In order of appearance, viewers see:
- New moon
- Waxing crescent
- First quarter
- Waxing gibbous
- Full moon
- Waning gibbous
- Third quarter
- Waning crescent
Each phase rises over the eastern horizon and sets over the western horizon at different times of day and night. Depending on the phase and moonrise or moonset time, the Moon may not be visible at its rising or setting time, but its visibility, or lack of visibility, follows a predictable and observable pattern.
Print out the Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator template, double-sided, preferably on heavy paper or card stock. Note: Printing is recommended as copying may cause misalignment issues.Replacing last year's calendar: To update last year's calendar, students will need a print out of a new Calendar Wheel and Viewing Wheel, pages 1-2 and 5-6 of the PDF. They’ll need to save their Moon Phases Wheel (with the phases shaded in), and Moonrise and Moonset Panels from last year. If it's too hard to remove the Moonrise and Moonset Panels from last year's calendar, they may want to replace those with new ones from pages 3-4 of the PDF.
Before cutting anything out, students should use their knowledge of the Moon to shade in the phases on the Moon Phases Wheel according to the labels. Have students make a Moon journal or guide them through this Moon Phases lesson first to provide them with the background knowledge needed to complete this step.Replacing last year's calendar: Students should remove and set aside the brass fastener from last year's calendar. Then they’ll set aside the Moon Phases Wheel. They should remove and set aside the Moonset and Moonrise Panels taped to the Viewing Wheel and recycle the rest. If it's too hard to remove the Moonrise and Moonset Panels from last year's calendar, they may replace those with new ones from pages 3-4 of the PDF.
Students will then cut out the Moon Phases Wheel, the Moonset and Moonrise Panels, and the Viewing Wheel where indicated on the back.Replacing last year's calendar: Students will cut out the new Viewing Wheel. If necessary, they’ll cut out replacement Moonset and Moonrise Panels. At this point, they should have five pieces total: 1) Calendar Wheel, 2) Viewing Wheel, 3) Moon Phases Wheel (with phases shaded in), 4) Moonset Panel and 5) Moonrise Panel. They should be sure that the year on the Calendar Wheel matches the year on the Viewing Wheel.
- Students should use a hole punch to create the hole for the “view from space” on the Viewing Wheel.
- Students will attach the Moonset and Moonrise Panels to the Viewing Wheel where indicated on the back using tape.
- Using a pencil, students will poke a guide hole in the center of all three wheels.
- Next, students should assemble the Moon Phases Calendar and Calculator by placing the Moon Phases Wheel on top of the Calendar Wheel, then the Viewing Wheel on the very top. They should use the brass fastener (or another fastener) to connect all three wheels in the center.
Have students use their calendars to identify the phase, rise time and set time for a date you choose.On the Calendar Wheel, students should identify the moon phase that will be visible on the selected date. Students should then turn the Moon Phases Wheel until that moon phase matches the moon phase they identified on the Calendar Wheel. Use the “view on Earth” pointer to line up the two matching phases. (Note: The Calendar Wheel shows the dates when moon phases occur in the Pacific Time Zone.)
- Students should then center these matched phases above the “S” on the viewing window. The time shown is when that phase is visible while facing south. That phase rises in the eastern sky at the time shown in the window by the “E” and sets in the western sky at the time shown in the window by the “W.”
- Now, have students pick a date for which they would like to know what moon phase will be visible and repeat the process to find the moonrise and moonset times. Then ask them to find the same information for a date a few days later. Next ask them to predict what phase, as well as moonrise and moonset times they should expect to see on a date several days after that.
Watch the Tutorial
Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración.
In this episode of Learning Space, you'll learn how to make a calendar that shows you when and where to spot the Moon for every day of the year! | Watch on YouTube
Ask students what patterns they notice about the phases of the Moon and when it rises.
Students should demonstrate the ability to identify the phase of the Moon, what time it rises, what time it is overhead, and what time it sets for any given date of the year.
Students learn about the phases of the moon by acting them out.
Time 30 mins - 1 hr
Observing the Moon
Students identify the Moon’s location in the sky and record their observations over the course of the moon-phase cycle in a journal.
Time 30 mins - 1 hr
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Whip up a moon-like crater with baking ingredients as a demonstration for students.
Time 30 mins - 1 hr
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