Skip to main content
 

Daily Do

Why can I see the moon in daytime?

Topics

Earth & Space Science Is Lesson Plan

Levels

Middle School High School

Grades:

5 6-8 9-12

Welcome to NSTA's Daily Do!

Teachers and families across the country are facing a new reality of providing opportunities for students to do science through distance and home learning. The Daily Do is one of the ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families with this endeavor. Each weekday, NSTA will share a sensemaking task teachers and families can use to engage their students in authentic, relevant science learning. We encourage families to make time for family science learning (science is a social process!) and are dedicated to helping students and their families find balance between learning science and the day-to-day responsibilities they have to stay healthy and safe.

Interested in learning about other ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families? Visit the NSTA homepage.

What is sensemaking?

Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.

Introduction

Today's task, Why can I see the moon during the day?, creates an opportunity for students to look at examples of how objects in the sky have predictable patterns. Students engage in science and engineering practices - including the use graphical data - to figure out why sometimes we can see the moon during the day.

This task has been designed in order to be used by students, parents, and teachers in distance and home learning. While students could complete this task independently, we encourage students to work virtually with peers or in the home with family members.

Moon at night Moon in daytime
Presentation of Phenomena (What am I exploring today?)

There are many observable objects in the sky. Some objects you can see during the day, like the sun (the Earth's closest star) for example. Other objects can be seen at night, like more distant stars, other planets, and the moon. However, sometimes we can see the moon during the day, when the sun is still out, like in the picture above. For today's Daily Do we will explore the patterns of the moon to discover why we can sometimes see the moon during the day when the sun is still out.

Guidance: Students will be taking on the role of an astronomer. The goal is to get students thinking about patterns we see all the time, but not really think too much about. Presenting a phenomenon and asking students to generate questions about it creates a need to figure out the answer to those questions. This is authentic engagement and a powerful learning process (unlike "learning about" moon phases by just drawing pictures of what they look like and memorizing the names of the phases).

Experiencing the Phenomenon:

Have students observe the first picture, the moon in the night sky. Ask student what this object is and what they know about it. Our goal here is to promote student thinking about what they know about the moon. Next, show them the second picture, the moon in the sky during the day. Again, ask students if they know what the object is and elicit any questions they have related to this phenomena. ALL student questions are okay at this point. Our goal is to motivate curiosity and not distinguish between "good questions" and "bad questions" or "right questions" and "wrong questions". Common questions will arise for most students, which is what this task builds on.

Investigative Questions (What questions do I have about what I just saw?)

Investigative questions are common questions kids may ask after they are introduced to the phenomena. Although questions may vary, many students are curious about what causes the moon to look different throughout the month and why we can sometimes see Investigative questions are common questions kids may ask after they are introduced to the phenomena. Although questions may vary, many students are curious about what causes the moon to look different throughout the month and why we can sometimes see the moon when the sun is out.

Guidance: It is important to allow time for thinking. Many students have ideas and questions but need time to formulate their idea or question into words. Some students may also benefit from writing things down first before they share. As adults we may be tempted to give them questions we feel might be important to explore, however we need to refrain from this and allow our students to practice asking their own questions. Our goal here is for students to consider all of the different factors that may have noticed before but never really thought about.

Common Questions:

  • Why does the moon's appearance seem to change?
  • Why is the moon sometimes bright in certain spots but not others? Like we can see the whole moon but part of it is dark and part of it is bright.
  • How do we see the moon during the day when it usually only comes out at night?
  • Why can we sometimes see the moon and sun at the same time in different parts of the sky?
  • Why does the moon look like it's a different color some nights?

We want to focus on one question in particular at this point:

  • Why does the moon's appearance seem to change?
  • Why is the moon sometimes bright in certain spots but not others? Like we can see the whole moon but part of it is dark and part of it is bright.
  • How do we see the moon during the day when it usually only comes out at night?
  • Why can we sometimes see the moon and sun at the same time in different parts of the sky?
  • Why does the moon look like it's a different color some nights?

Connection Guidance: Students may make connections to previous concepts depending on their grade level. For example, early elementary students may mention that both the sun and moon have predictable patterns - they both "travel across the sky" each day. Conversely, upper elementary/middle school students may mention that the Earth orbits the sun and the moon orbits the Earth. Middle school students may also know that we can see the moon because it reflects light from the sun. Other things students may mention are the moon causes ocean tides due to the force of gravity and/or that astronauts have traveled to the moon. Our goal here is to prompt students to think about all of the different things they already know about moon and other objects they see in the sky.

Student Ideas and Background Knowledge

Now that we have identified the first question we want to figure out, it would be helpful to gain some additional background information about something we know impacts how we see the moon.

Conducting an Investigation

Have your students look for patterns in the moonrise and moonset times in your area on the website, time and date. This can be done in number of ways depending on the age of your student, however consider having them chart the amount of time the moon is visible each day for 30 to 45 days using a moonrise/moonset chart (example below). Then ask them what they notice in the patterns.

Guidance on creating the moonrise/moonset chart: Using the date and time website you can make a visual of when the moon is visible. As you are making the chart you will need make sure that moonrise and moonset are on different days. For example, moonrise on July 1 was at 5:08 pm and then it set on July 2nd at 3:12 am. On July 2 the moonrise was at 6:21 pm and then set at 3:54 am, and so on. The shaded sections are the times the moon was visible and the unshaded part of the chart is when the moon is not visible.

Using a visual like the moonrise/moonset graph with color provides students with another way to look for patterns. This strategy is especially useful when working with younger students that might still be working with learning how to tell and work with time. The chart included can also be manipulated to make the sections bigger in order to have student write on a printed copy. In the classroom, also consider breaking the chart into weeks and have students put their data together to look at the entire month.

Depending on the age of your students there are many different activities available to engage students in figuring out the patterns of the moon. Elementary and middle school activities can be found on the NASA website. High school students may benefit from exploring different aspects of the moon on NASA's Moon site.

Guidance: It is not necessary (at this time) for students to figure out everything about the moon. However, some important science ideas that students can figure out from the activities and/or the moonrise and moonset times include:

  • The moon has a predictable pattern as it moves across the sky.
  • The moon is not visible at the same time every day.
  • The moon is not visible for the same amount of time every day
  • The moon does not give off it's own light, but reflects light from the sun.
  • The moon orbits around the Earth
  • The moon does not change shape, but instead the sun's light hits the surface of the moon differently. The way the sun's light hits the moon it what makes the moon look like it is changing shape.

After students have figured out some things about the patterns of the moon, they can get more information about the moon by watching the video below.

july timing of moon moonrise and moonset times for July
Patterns of the Moon
Moon phases website
Making Sense - What did we figure out?

What questions can we now answer about the moon?

Looking back to our initial questions about the moon:

  • Why does the moon's appearance seem to change?
  • Why is the moon sometimes bright in certain spots but not others? Like we can see the whole moon but part of it is dark and part of it is bright.
  • How do we see the moon during the day when it usually only comes out at night?
  • Why can we sometimes see the moon and sun at the same time in different parts of the sky?
  • Why does the moon look like it's a different color some nights?

Our focus was to figure out why we can see the moon during the day on certain days. Through our investigations, we have figured out that the moon moves. How we see the moon depends on where it is in relationship to the sun and to the Earth. We can only see the moon because the sun's light reflects off it's surface. The sun's light hits different areas of the moon's surface on different days making it look like the moon changes its shape.

NSTA Collection of Resources for Today's Daily Do

NSTA has created a Why can I see the moon in the daytime? resource collection to support teachers and families using this task. If you're an NSTA member, you can add this collection to your library by clicking ADD TO MY LIBRARY located near the top of the page (at right in the blue box).

Check Out Previous Daily Dos from NSTA

The NSTA Daily Do is an open educational resource (OER) and can be used by educators and families providing students distance and home science learning. Access the entire collection of NSTA Daily Dos.

Asset 2