K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Recognize that the moon does not actually change shape, but goes through phases that form a pattern.
  • Learn that the amount of moon one can see each night depends on where the moon is in its orbit around the Earth.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes



  • Students observe the moon for two weeks.
  • Students draw moon on the Moonwatch Activity Sheet each night for fourteen days.


  1. In a darkened room, the teacher will set up models of the sun, moon, and Earth.
  2. Moving the moon model slowly in a circle around the Earth, the teacher will instruct the students to draw the moon as it would be seen from Earth.
  3. Refer back to data collected on the Moonwatch Activity Sheet and pinpoint dates when the moon looks as it did in each point in this activity.
  4. Discuss and answer Moonwatch Questions.


  • Completed activity sheets.
  • Verbal answers to questions.

Supplemental information

When collecting data on the Moonwatch Activity Sheet, it may be necessary for the students to infer what the moon actually looks like on any certain night, as some nights may be cloudy and the students may be unable to see the moon that night.


This lesson may be adapted to include the creation of bar or pie graphs as a part of a math lesson.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 3

        • 3.E.1 Recognize the major components and patterns observed in the earth/moon/sun system. 3.E.1.1 Recognize that the earth is part of a system called the solar system that includes the sun (a star), planets, and many moons and the earth is the third planet...
      • Grade 4

        • 4.E.1 Explain the causes of day and night and phases of the moon. 4.E.1.1 Explain the cause of day and night based on the rotation of Earth on its axis. 4.E.1.2 Explain the monthly changes in the appearance of the moon, based on the moon’s orbit around the...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 3

  • Goal 3: The learner will make observations and use appropriate technology to build an understanding of the earth/moon/sun system.
    • Objective 3.02: Observe that objects in the sky have patterns of movement including:
      • Sun.
      • Moon.
      • Stars.