A virtual field trip that's out of this world! Virtual Field Trip, Moon, Virtual School, Google Earth, Learning Moment, Family Fun, Science Lesson

Take a Virtual Field Trip to the Moon

By: Christine Nakamura

I've taught science to virtual school students at Capistrano Connections Academy for a couple of years now. One advantage of being in an exciting, groundbreaking virtual school is that brick-and-mortar walls don’t define our learning possibilities. So how do we make science exciting beyond the printed textbook? Virtual field trips allow us to overcome limitations of distance, time, lack of access, and money. Want to take an educational and exhilarating virtual field trip to the moon? Here’s how!

By reaching out to the Internet for some great resources, and into your kitchen cabinets for a few ingredients, you can create the moon’s surface! Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

So put on your virtual space suit and follow along…

The first great resource is Google Earth. It’s free and has these amazing tools for exploring the moon:

  • A re-creation of the Apollo 11 landing narrated by Buzz Aldrin
  • High-resolution maps of the moon
  • A historical archive of the original moon-landing photos
  • 360-degree photos to see astronauts’ footprints
  • Panoramic imagery of the moon’s surface taken by astronauts—zoom into different areas and rotate the globe to inspect the craters, rays, and maria

Now you are ready to start tracking the moon.

Ask your child to think about those nights that he or she saw a big, beautiful moon up in the sky. Was the moon in the same spot in the sky the next day, week, and month? Tracking the moon is an extremely helpful method to understanding that the moon orbits around the Earth and we orbit around the sun. This is a fun activity to do over the course of a week, but a month will get even better results. Here’s how to track the moon:

  1. Print my moon-tracking chart. 
  2. Pick one spot to stand each night that has a good viewing area of the sky.
  3. Try to go out at the same time each night.
  4. Students can carefully estimate the position in the sky and draw the shape they see on the chart.
    (To help your kids draw to scale, ask them to hold up a finger. Does their pinky finger cover the moon? If so, tell them to draw the moon about the size of their pinky finger.)

The next ingredients for your virtual field trip to the moon come from your kitchen cabinet and the children’s toys:

  • Large cake pan or a box of similar size
  • Play sand
  • Flour
  • Cocoa powder or ground coffee
  • Clay balls of various sizes (meteors)

You simply need to layer the ingredients into the box. Start with about a 2" layer of play sand, and then spread a thin layer of flour on top. Top that off with the layer of cocoa powder (or ground coffee). Use the clay to create meteors of various sizes. Now you have your moon surface!

Next comes the fun part. Kids can create their own moon surface with craters, and rays strewn across the surface! They just place the box on the floor and stand on a chair to drop the clay meteors onto the moon surface. Check out my recording to see what your surface will look like afterwards.

 

To finish off your virtual field trip, let your kids explore these and other great Web sites and see where their imaginations take them:

Worldbook@NASA - Moon
Astrogeology Science Center
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Multimedia Images

Be sure to share all the details of your trip with us here!