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Modeling the Cycle Part Three. A system is an organized group of related objects that form a whole. Our solar system is a group of planets, and other celestial objects that orbit the sun. Big Idea:.

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modeling the cycle part three

Modeling the CyclePart Three

Our Solar System, TESLA Science Notebooks

big idea
A system is an organized group of related objects that form a whole. Our solar system is a group of planets, and other celestial objects that orbit the sun.Big Idea:
Remember… In our investigation of the moon, we are trying to help Frankie find out why the Moon was showing up framed in his window at different times and in different shapes? So far we have identified that the moon follows a predictable and repeated cycle that lasts about 29 days… one month.
  • Our observations prove that Frankie would have seen the moon showing up in his window at different times and in different shapes.
  • But our data doesn't tell us why the moon’s appearance changes and repeats a cycle.
focus question
Focus Question:
  • What is the problem we need to solve?

To help Frankie finally answer his question and write an ending to his story, we need to determine why the moon’s appearance changes in a predictable cycle.

Why does the moon’s appearance change in a predictable cycle?


I want you to share what you think could be the best answer to our focus question.

I think that the moons appearance changes in a cycle because…

background knowledge
Background Knowledge:

Up until know we have been recording observations of the moon, identifying patterns in the data we collected, and are trying to predict reasons why the moons appearance changes each day.

Today we are going to explore the astronomer's’ explanation for what causes the moon’s cycle using models.


A scientist who studies celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole.

background knowledge1
Background Knowledge:
  • Is the moon a light source? Does it emit its own light? (Like the Sun)
        • No… The moon is a solid piece of material in space. It is like this foam ball. The moon does not create its own light.

So what is the source of light on the moon that makes it light up and change appearance?

The Sun… Since we can’t actually visit the sun and moon, astronomers use models to explain what is happening.

background knowledge2
Background Knowledge:

Scientists believe that moonlight is light from the sun that shines onto the moon. From Earth we see the part of the moon that is illuminated (lit) by the sun, but we don’t see the same amount each day.

We can click on the link or the image to the right to watch an animation of what scientists believe causes the moon’s appearance to change.

Quick Write:

If the moon does not emit its own light, then why does it appear to be illuminated (lit) from Earth?

modeling the moons phases cycle
Modeling the Moons Phases/Cycle

The university of Nebraska-Lincoln has developed another online simulator that can help us recreate and understand how our view of the moon changes and causes each of the different phases in the cycle.

We can click on the link, or the image, to the left to access the simulator. Using the simulator we can drag the moon to orbit the earth and recreate each of the moon phases.

modeling the moons phases cycle1
Modeling the Moons Phases/Cycle

We are going to try to replicate what we saw in the Wonderville and Nebraska-Lincoln simulations and model the moons cycle with a physical model. We can do this with a light, a foam ball (Moon on a Stick), and a dark room.


She can’t see the lit side of the moon so her view is a new moon

Sun lit side of the moon


Our View from Earth

Which phase of the moon would this person currently be viewing?

New Moon

modeling the moons phases cycle2
Modeling the Moons Phases/Cycle

Using the physical model, try to replicate each of the major phases of the moon…

New Moon, 1st Quarter, Full Moon, Last Quarter.




Record a pictorial version of your results in your science notebook

modeling the moons phases cycle3
Modeling the Moons Phases/Cycle

Sometimes scientists need to see an idea modeled in more than one way before it makes sense.

You can take the “moon on a stick” model outside and observe the relationship between the moon and the sun first hand.

This model requires a clear day when the moon is visible during the daytime.

Do we have enough information to help Frankie finally answer his question and write an ending to his story?
making meaning
Making Meaning:
  • What is the source of the moon’s light?
  • The Sun
  • What causes the changes in the moon’s shape according to scientists?
  • The moon orbits the earth so we see different parts of the moon being illuminated (lit by the sun).
  • What causes the new moon phase?
  • The sun is illuminating the half of the moon that we can’t see from earth.
  • What causes the full moon phase?
  • The sun is illuminating the half of the moon we can see from earth.
  • Why does the moon’s cycle take 29 days to complete?
  • This is the length of time it takes the moon to orbit the sun.
claims and evidence
Claims and Evidence




Based on what you have learned from your investigations of the moon, you need to record at least 3 claims and evidence statements in your science notebook.

I claim that… I know this because…

Possible Examples:

I claim that we only see the portion of the moon lit by the sun. I know this because…

I claim that the moon’s shape appears to change because the moon orbits earth. I know this because…

Reflection and Conclusion




  • What did you learn…?
  • What really surprised you…?
  • What new questions do you have…?
  • What would you like to know more about…?