One advantage of being in an exciting, groundbreaking virtual school(opens in a new tab) is that brick-and-mortar walls don’t define our learning possibilities. So how do we make science exciting beyond the online school, homeschool, or distance learning lessons? 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!
Put on your virtual space suit and follow along.
The first resource is Google Earth Pro, desktop version(opens in a new tab). It’s free and has amazing tools for exploring the moon. From the menu bar at the top of your screen, select the icon that looks like a planet with rings, then choose Moon from the pull-down menu to explore:
- 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 in to different areas and rotate the globe to inspect the craters, rays, and maria (large, dark plains)
Now you are ready to start tracking the moon.
Ask your online school, homeschool, or distance learning student 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 a 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:
- Print the moon-tracking chart(opens in a new tab).
- Pick one spot to stand each night that has a good viewing area of the sky.
- Try to go out at the same time each night.
- 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, have 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
- Cocoa powder or ground coffee
- Clay balls of various sizes (meteors)
You simply need to layer the ingredients in the pan or box. Start with about a 2-inch layer of play sand, and then spread a thin layer of flour on top. Top that off with a layer of cocoa powder or ground coffee. Use the clay to create meteors of all different 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 the recording to see what your surface will look like afterward.
To finish off your virtual field trip, let your kids explore these and other interesting websites and see where their imaginations take them:
- Moon information from NASA(opens in a new tab)
- Learning activities(opens in a new tab) from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- U.S. Geological Survey unified geological map of the moon(opens in a new tab)
For more great learning activities and distance learning tips, visit our ”Resources for Families(opens in a new tab)” page.