In this unit, we will be learning about how our planet’s movement affects us. We will explore the causes of day and night, as well as changes in the seasons. We will also discuss Earth’s moon and observe how its appearance in the sky changes in a consistent pattern known as a lunar cycle.
Day and night occur because of Earth’s rotation. Every 24 hours the earth rotates, or spins on its axis, once. This axis is an imaginary line through the earth between the North Pole and South Pole. As the earth rotates, different areas of its surface will face toward or away from the sun. The part of earth facing the sun will have daylight, while the part facing away from the sun will have night.
In addition to rotating on its axis, Earth is also constantly moving in an elliptical orbit around the sun. Because Earth’s axis is tilted, the northern and southern hemispheres will either be tilted toward or away from the sun. As one hemisphere tilts directly toward the sun, that hemisphere will experience summer, while the other hemisphere experiences winter.
The moon is our planet’s only natural satellite, and it revolves around the earth approximately every 28 days. Despite its barren, lifeless appearance, the moon has many interesting physical features. Unlike our planet, the moon has no atmosphere, so it is unable to support life. Its lack of an atmosphere also makes it more vulnerable to being struck by asteroids, meteorites, and other objects from space.
We learned how the Moon's surface is covered with craters which are caused by impacts from objects from space. In this activity we create a lunar surface using flour and chocolate drink mix, and we see how craters are formed.
As the moon revolves around the Earth, its appearance in the sky changes. This lesson explores these changes in appearance, also known as moon phases. Although one half of the moon is always illuminated by the sun, the moon’s position in its orbit determines the amount of the illuminated portion that we see.
Special guest Sam Cole from Anson County 4H presents an Oreo Moon Phases activity during our 4th grade Zoom meeting. This activity is a great way for students to see the changes in the appearance of moon over the lunar cycle.
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