Phases of the Moon Activities and Lesson Plan Ideas

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National Space Day is celebrated every year on the first Friday of May. This day was created to encourage observation of the many wonders of outer space. If your students’ interest in math and science is waxing or waning, the moon, sky, and planets are a great place to spark their interest in STEM learning. By implementing a student-centric curriculum with plenty of hands-on activities, you can ensure that your student scientists remain engaged in their learning.

Science Activities and Resources

Grade 1 Science Leveled Reader

The Sky We Share

People have been observing the sky and its patterns for a very long time. In this Grade 1 Reader, students will learn about how people have been studying the sky throughout history and how we still study it today!

You can find lesson ideas on the second page of the reader that include previewing the story to find new words, or reviewing the pictures to predict what the story is about.

Download Reader – Student

Download Reader – Teacher Guide

Grade 1 Science Hands-On Activity

Hands-On Activity: Observe the Daytime and Nighttime Sky

In this hands-on activity, students can compare objects and observe patterns in the sky during the daytime and nighttime. Students will record observations, make a claim, and describe their evidence and reasoning to understand how the sky changes.

Download Student Activity

Download Teacher Guide

Grade 5 Science Leveled Reader

Searching for Sunrise

In this Grade 5 Reader, Rylie notices that the sun is rising later and later each day, she begins to research the sun’s patterns. When she notices that the moon seems to change shape each night, she turns back to her research to learn why.

Once students are done reading, explore further questions about other planets’ moons, Earth’s tilt, or the movements of constellations.

Download Reader – Student

Download Reader – Teacher Guide

Grade 5 Science Hands-On Activity

Hands-On Activity: The Night Moves

Just like Rylie in Searching for Sunrise, your class can learn why the sky’s patterns shift depending on the time of year. Have students learn about orbits, revolutions, and patterns with these activities:

  • Track the moon’s phases for a month by filling in the missing phases on the calendar.
  • Chart the sun by the season and graph your findings.
  • Study the position of the constellations and their visibility in the sky.

Download Student Activity

Download Teacher Guide

Grades 6–8 Hands-On Labs: Earth and Space Science

The following labs help middle schoolers physically model the movements of the sun, Earth, and moon in relationship to each other. Materials suggested for these labs include the following:

  • Three-inch polystyrene foam ball
  • Pen or pencil
  • Marker
  • Masking tape
  • Light hanging from the ceiling

Model the Apparent Motion of the Sun

For this lab, students will work with a partner to better understand the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Once they are done modeling the Earth’s movements, they will analyze the results.

The View from Planet Earth Part 1: Lunar Phases

Once your students clearly understand the Earth’s orbit, this lab adds the moon’s movements to the equation. Further questions are provided once the students have modeled the rotations.

The View from Planet Earth Part 2: Eclipses

In this activity, students will be asked to model an eclipse, using what they’ve learned in their previous labs about the orbit of the Earth and moon in relation to the sun.

Download “Model the Apparent Motion of the Sun” Student Lab

Download “Model the Apparent Motion of the Sun” Teacher Guide

High School Math Activities and Resources

Challenge older students to study the moon from a different angle. In these mathematics lessons about the moon and Earth, your class will practice their geometry and critical reasoning skills.

Grades 9+ Geometry Math Activities

Angle Relationships in Circles

This small group activity has students study an image of the moon and the Earth and answer questions to build a shared understanding of the mathematical components of the picture.

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Download Teacher Guide

Triangle Congruence Criteria

These exercises focus on the Cube Corner Retroreflectors (CCR) on the surface of the moon that were used during the Apollo missions for Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) experiments. Have your students use their reasoning skills to discover more about the CCRs, LLR, and distance between the Earth and the moon.

Download Student Activity

Download Teacher Guide

Inspire your students to aim for the stars with these activities, and celebrate National Space Day with a lesson about the Earth, moon, and sky.


Contact your personal HMH Rep to learn all the ways HMH is here to support you and your students.

This blog, originally published in 2022, has been updated for 2023.

Learn more about HMH’s Texas-specific science program.