How do the sun and moon move?

The Basic Idea

Take the children outside on a morning that is clear (and the moon is potentially up in the sky too). Can they see the moon? Can they see the sun? (opportunity to talk about not looking at the sun direct due its damaging effects)

How is the sky different from when they woke up? Ask the children about what they think happens to the sun, moon and earth throughout the day and night. Create a hypothesis which the children will then test!

Carry out two experiments. The first to find out the movements of the sun across the sky during the day. The second to work out the movements of the moon across the sky at night (experiments can be carried out at the same time).

Children to first suggest experiment ideas. Lead to a time lapse camera being left outside over night to track moon movements and either a pupil’s or an object’s shadow tracked in the same spot throughout the day. Opportunity to discuss how the experiments will be carried out, fair testing etc.

Easy to use time lapse software accessible free online

Pictures from experiment are gathered and children discuss what they may have found out. Why does the moon/ sun move across the sky? Why do the shadows change shape throughout the day? Was their hypothesis correct?

Finally, outside in groups, children use their bodies to make live models of how the moon and earth move around the sun.

Back in the classroom children could make actual models to show the relationship between the sun, moon and earth. Or simply write up what they learnt during the experiments as a report, presentation or role play.

How to take it even further or make it more challenging

Link up with a local astronomy society who may be able to visit. They can set up telescopes with filters that allow you to look at the sun and see its sun spots without damaging your eyes.

For older or high ability children, discussions of shadows could be extended to further explore the behaviour of light and how shadows are created.

Create other time lapse videos such as flowers opening up, wild flowers changing direction with the Sun’s movements, the coming and going of people in and out of the school hall at lunch time, the visits of birds to a bird table/feeders….