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FOSS Planetary Science Investigation 9: Phases of the Moon (5 days)
Big Idea
Gravity holds Earth in orbit around the sun, and it holds the moon in orbit around the Earth. The pulls of gravity from the sun and the moon cause the patterns of ocean tides. The moon's and sun's positions relative to Earth cause lunar and solar eclipses to occur. The moon's monthly orbit around Earth, the relative positions of the sun, the moon, and the observer and the fact that it shines by reflected sunlight explain the observed phases of the moon.(K-12 Framework: ESS1.B)
Essential Questions
How did the moon appearance change over the month?
What causes moon phases?
What are the roles of rotation and revolution of Earth and the Moon in the appearance of the moon phases?
What evidence supports your organization of the phases puzzle pieces?

Explain the phases of the Moon in terms of the relative positions of the Earth, Sun, and Moon.
Construct a model for the relative positions of the Earth, Sun, and Moon as they relate to corresponding eclipses.
Use models to explain the mechanics of Moon phases and eclipses.
Science & Engineering Practices
Analyze and Interpret Data: students analyze Moonrise data
Developing and Using Models:  students use models to understand the phases of the Moon
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: students edit their quick-write response explaining how the phases of the Moon occur
Developing and Using Models: students diagram the phases of the Moon in order to understand how the phases occur.
Content/Core Ideas
  • The phases of the moon are: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, waning crescent.
  • It takes about 30 days (one "moonth") for the Moon to go through a complete set of shape changes, returning to its starting shape.
  • The Moon revolves around the Earth in a counterclockwise orbit. When the shadow of Earth falls on the moon, it is called an eclipse.
Crosscutting Concepts
  • Patterns
  • Systems and System Models
  • Stability and Change
Learning Practices
CC:7.W.2: Journal:  students do a quick-write exercise explaining how the phases of the Moon occur.
CC:7.W.2: Journal:  students write edit their Moon phase quick-write explaining how the phases of the Moon occur.
CC:7.RI.1 Read The Search for New Moons
Academic Vocabulary
  • phases
  • Moon log
  • new Moon
  • full Moon
  • first quarter
  • third quarter
  • waxing
  • waning
  • crescent Moons
  • gibbous Moons
  • eclipse
Mid-summative Exam 8
Moon Phases explanation Quick-write
informal assessment of modeling phase
Journal--Explain Phases
Looking at the Moon from Earth sheet
Quick-write Revision of Explaing Phases