The Earth Moon and Sun #40

(grades 5-12)
Soft-bound, 72 page book, 20 reproducible activity sheets, full teaching notes.

Book Cover: Enlarge

sample book cover

Sample Activity: View

Improvise compasses and quadrants to track the sun and moon across a graph paper sky. Cover a tennis ball in a beautiful earth wrapper, then tilt it towards a tennis-ball sun to comprehend seasons. Wrap a Ping-Pong ball halfway in black tape to model moon phases that wax and wane. Fathom heavenly motions indoors and out!

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Table of Contents for #40 The Earth Moon and Sun:

Preparation and Support

A TOPS Teaching Model • Getting Ready • Gathering Materials • Sequencing Activities • Long Range Objectives • Review / Test Questions

Activities and Lesson Notes

  1. 1. Azimuth
  2. 2. Altitude
  3. 3. Lunar Coordinates
  4. 4. Solar Survey
  5. 5. Shadow Track
  6. 6. Off the Wall
  7. 7. Bird's Eye View
  8. 8. Great Ball O' Fire
  9. 9. Paper Punch Moon
  10. 10. Pinhole Projections
  11. 11. Paper Plate Sun
  12. 12. Eclipse
  13. 13. Moon Phases
  14. 14. Where You Live
  15. 15. Solar Exposure
  16. 16. Earth Dance
  17. 17. The Ecliptic Plane
  18. 18. Solar Time / Star Time
  19. 19. Moon Motion
  20. 20. Lunar Calendar

Supplementary Pages

compass circle • protractor • angles of altitude • quadrant • moon circle graphs • sun circle graphs • sundial circle • measuring triangle • sun diameters • earth diameters • ecliptic ring • clock rectangle • moon phase tabs • sunlight circle • globe gores • mini-compass • concept list (16) • concept list (17) • concept list (18) • concept list (19) • lunar cycles (A) • lunar cycles (B) • seasons circle • moon marker


Complete Master List for #40 The Earth Moon and Sun:

Key: (1st/2nd/3rd) denote needed quantities: (1st) enough for 1 student doing all activities; (2nd) enough for 30 students working in self-paced pairs; (3rd) enough for 30 students working in pairs on the same lesson. Starred* items may be purchased below.

  1. * 1/1/1: package of steel pins, 1 inch long
  2. * 1/1/1: spool of thread
  3. 1/15/15: scissors
  4. * 1/15/15: ceramic magnets
  5. * 1/35/35: small baby food jars or equivalent
  6. 1/1/1: water source (a pitcher of water)
  7. * 3/35/35: straight plastic drinking straws
  8. * 0.1/1/1: cups oil-based modeling clay
  9. 5/62/62: index cards, 4x6 inch
  10. * 1/10/15: rolls clear tape

  11. 1/1/1: roll double-stick clear tape, adhesive on both sides (optional)
  12. * 1/10/15: rolls masking tape
  13. 1/1/1: pencil sharpener
  14. * 3/75/75: generic paper plates
  15. * 1/30/30: medium-sized washers
  16. 1/8/15: textbooks
  17. 1/15/15: wristwatches
  18. 7/60/110: medium cans of equal diameter (or paper towel tubes or gift-wrap tubes)
  19. 0.5/7/7: quarts dry gravel or sand
  20. 3/3/3: full-sized newspaper sheets

  21. 1/8/15: meter sticks
  22. 1/8/15: hand calculators (optional)
  23. * 1/2/2: rolls adding machine tape
  24. 1/3/6: paper punch tools
  25. 1/5/15: U.S. nickels or equivalent-sized coin
  26. 1/15/15: orange crayons or marking pens
  27. 1/1/1: roll waxed paper
  28. * 2/30/30: thick rubber bands
  29. * 1/1/1: aluminum foil
  30. 1/1/1: roll kite string (or heavy thread or dental floss)

  31. 1/8/15: clipboards (or books)
  32. 2/30/30: tennis balls, new or used
  33. 2/10/30: batteries, dead or alive; size-D are best.
  34. 1/5/15: flashlights
  35. 1/15/15: Ping-Pong balls
  36. * 3/45/45: paper clips
  37. 1/1/1: roll black tape: electrical, vinyl or cloth
  38. 3/45/45: glass soda or beer bottles of equal height
  39. 1/5/15: cardboard milk cartons, quart or larger
  40. * 1/5/15: canning rings, regular size (optional)

  41. 1/1/1: calendars for this year and probably the next

Convenient Shopping:

Solar Eclipse Viewing Glasses

CE Certified for solar viewing - use with book #40 The Earth Moon and Sun and #45 Pi in the Sky

Special offer for the 2014 partial solar eclipse on October 23rd. Most of North America will be able to see a partial eclipse, which will be especially dramatic in the northern states and Canada. While supplies last, get yours today!

Please remember that looking at a solar eclipse without proper eye protection can be very dangerous. Only look directly at the sun with solar eclipse viewing glasses.

Adding Machine Tape

2-1/4 inch x 100 feet

Adding machine tape.

Aluminum Foil

regular strength, 20 square feet x 12 inches rolls

Buy aluminum foil here as a convenience item, or for less in many grocery stores.

Baby Food Jars - assorted

without lids

Each set includes 4 small, 4 medium and 4 large glass jars.

Canning Rings with Lids

fit regular-mouth canning jars

These may be available only seasonally in some stores. Avoid wide-mouth size. Needed for #16 Pressure and #17 Light. Only rings (not lids) are used in #40 Earth, Moon & Sun, and #43 Focus Pocus.

Clay - modeling

oil-based, non-drying

Sold by the 100 gram stick, about 1/4 cup, in assorted colors (our choice). One stick serves a whole classroom for TOPS applications.

Magnet - ceramic

rectangle, 3/16 inch thick

Your basic refrigerator magnet, about the width and length of a large postage stamp, with N and S poles on each face and a hole in the middle. A useful and popular science supply used in may TOPS titles. Purchase at least 2 per student.

Paper Clips

size #1, steel, box of 100

Paper clips have 1001 uses in TOPS experiments, and science in general. Feel free to use paper clips you already have, but be aware that different brands come in different sizes and weights. In experiments where uniformity is important, don't mix brands.

Paper Plates

9-inch diameter, generic white

A classic ripple edge-design, with wide application in TOPS experiments. Buy these here for convenience, or for less at your local grocery store.

Rubber Bands - assorted

10 grams each of thin, medium and thick

You get 30 grams of soft, strong, durable rubber bands: thin #16 (about 50), medium #32 (about 20), and heavy-duty #64 (about 10). These sizes are specifically selected to work in most TOPS experiments.

Straight Pins

steel, one and 1/16 inch long

Used in many TOPS experiments. Sometimes required for their magnetic properties. Don't purchase aluminum straight pins by mistake.

Straws - straight

plastic, thin

Any length straw, between 0.20 and 0.25 inches in diameter is suitable. Grocery stores generally carry straws with flexible "elbows." You can use those if you cut off the bendable section before using.

Tape - clear

3/4 inch x 1000 inch roll

Your standard desk tape with matte write-on surface.

Tape - masking

3/4 inch x 55 yd roll

A handy science supply used in most TOPS modules.


light duty, 25 yd spool

Just plain old thread. Used in many TOPS titles, especially in Pendulums #34.

Washers - small

7/8 inch flat washer with 3/8 inch hole

Used in many TOPS labs. Item #1290 (medium tubing) used in #16 Pressure fits through these smaller washers.

Teaching Tips for #40 The Earth Moon and Sun:

We encourage improvisation - it's one of the main goals of our hands-on approach! You and your students might invent a simpler, sturdier or more accurate system; might ask a better question; might design a better extension. Hooray for ingenuity! When this occurs, we'd love to hear about it and share it with other educators. Please send ideas and photos to

Lesson by Lesson Objectives for #40 The Earth Moon and Sun:

  1. Lesson 1: To build a compass. To define the location of your desk by finding the azimuth of each room corner.
  2. Lesson 2: To construct a quadrant. To practice measuring the altitude of a room corner from where you sit.
  3. Lesson 3: To measure the azimuth and altitude of the moon as it appears to move across the night sky. To plot this data on circular graphs.
  4. Lesson 4: To indirectly measure the azimuth and altitude of the sun by casting shadows. To plot this data on a circular graph.
  5. Lesson 5: To measure the azimuth and altitude of the sun with a sundial. To plot this data on a circular graph.
  6. Lesson 6: To draw a geometric figure to scale. To observe that corresponding parts in the scale drawing have the same ratio as corresponding parts in the original.
  7. Lesson 7: To draw your classroom, yourself, and other familiar objects to scale. To observe how corresponding parts in a scale drawing have the same proportion as the actual object.
  8. Lesson 8: To measure the relative diameters of the earth, moon and sun using scale models. To distinguish between apparent size and real size.
  9. Lesson 9: To develop a model of the earth and moon that correctly scales both size and distance. To confirm that this model correctly predicts the apparent size of the real moon in the real sky.
  10. Lesson 10: To develop a model of the earth and sun that correctly scales both size and distance. To verify the scale dimensions of this model with a pinhole projector.
  11. Lesson 11: To model the sizes of the sun, earth and moon, and the distances between them, all to the same scale. To get a sense of the vast emptiness of space.
  12. Lesson 12: To build a scale model of the earth and moon using a tennis ball. To model eclipses of the sun and moon.
  13. Lesson 13: To model the phases of the moon. To describe its cycle of phases in the correct order.
  14. Lesson 14: To model the earth with a tennis ball. To identify its major geographic features and standard lines of reference.
  15. Lesson 15: To model how the earth looks from space. To account for the sun's apparent motion around the earth.
  16. Lesson 16: To model earth's rotation on its axis and revolution around the sun. To understand why night follows day and season follows season.
  17. Lesson 17: To model the ecliptic plane. To trace the apparent northward and southward movements of the sun in terms of this plane.
  18. Lesson 18: To recognize that the earth turns through 361° from one solar noon to the next. To distinguish between solar time and star time.
  19. Lesson 19: To model the moon's apparent westward motion and actual eastward motion around the globe. To correlate the moon's phases with its positions relative to the earth and sun.
  20. Lesson 20: To construct a lunar calendar. To summarize basic earth and moon motions in a carry-home model to use all year long.

National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) for #40 The Earth Moon and Sun:

TEACHING Standards

These 20 activity sheets promote excellence in science teaching by these NSES criteria:
Teachers of science...
A: ...plan an inquiry-based science program. (p. 30)
B: and facilitate learning. (p. 32)
C: ...engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning. (p. 37)
D: and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science. (p. 43)

CONTENT Standards

These 20 activity sheets contain fundamental content as defined by these NSES guidelines (p. 109).
• Represent a central event or phenomenon in the natural world.
• Represent a central scientific idea and organizing principle.
• Have rich explanatory power.
• Guide fruitful investigations.
• Apply to situations and contexts common to everyday experiences.
• Can be linked to meaningful learning experiences.
• Are developmentally appropriate for students at the grade level specified.

Unifying Concepts and Processes

NSES Framework: Systems, order, and organization • Evidence, models and explanation • Constancy, change, and measurement
Core Concepts/Processes: Model our rotating, tilted Earth. Understand why night follows day, how season follows season.

Science as Inquiry (content standard A)

NSES Framework: Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations. • Design and conduct a scientific investigation. • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. • Think critically and logically to connect evidence and explanations. • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations. • Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Core Inquiries: Track the sun and moon across a graph-paper sky by altitude and compass bearings.

Earth and Space Science (content standard D)

NSES Framework: Objects in the sky • Changes in earth and sky • Structure of the earth system • Earth in the solar system
Core Content: Azimuth • Altitude • Apparent size • Scale models • Eclipses • Moon phases • Solar time • Star time