The Many Moons

3.7 based on 26 ratings

Updated on Sep 26, 2014

Grade Level: 6th; Type: Astronomy

The goal of this project is to physically represent the phases of the moon.Most people can recognize and name the moon’s different phases, but few can explain them.When astronomers speak of the phases, they mean how much of the sunlit part of the moon people can see from the earth.

  • What are phases of the moon?
  • What causes phases of the moon?

The cardinal phases of the moon have distinct shapes and occur at definite moments in time.During the stretch phases, the moon is continually growing or shrinking.Most people know the names of the stretches: crescent, waxing gibbous, waning gibbous and waning crescent, but explaining and understanding the causes of these phenomenon can be difficult.

The moon box simulates each phase of the moon based on the changing angle of the flashlight and Styrofoam ball.

  • Shoebox with lid
  • Styrofoam ball (1 inch or 2.5 cm diameter)
  • Black thread
  • Paper clip
  • Metal clip fastener
  • Glue
  • Poster paint: white, black, blue and yellow
  • Black construction paper
  • Pencil compass
  • Sharpie
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Small flashlight
  • Electrical tape

  1. Remove the shoebox lid.Use the needle of the compass to punch 8 evenly spaced holes around the middle of the box, and enlarge each hole by pushing a pencil through it.
  2. Label each hole with a number 1-8.
  3. Use the ruler to draw vertical lines that go through holes 1, 3, 5 and 7.
  4. Paint the area between 1-3 and 5-7 dark blue.
  5. Paint the area between holes 3-5 and 7-1 light blue.
  6. Paint the outside of the box lid dark blue.
  7. Paint the inside of the box and lid black.
  8. Allow the paint to dry.
  9. Put the lid on the box and label the sides of the top with the numbers above their holes.
  10. One inch below Hole 5 cut another hole just large enough for the flashlight head.
  11. Use the pencil compass to draw 8 small circles on the black construction paper.
  12. Use the yellow poster paint on the 8 black circles to represent the phases of the moon.Number 1 is all black and number 5 is all yellow.
  13. Glue the circles above the corresponding hole.
  14. Treat the Styrofoam ball with paint and/or poke holes in it to represent craters.
  15. Unwind the paperclip and push it into the Styrofoam ball to give it a hook.
  16. Measure the distance between one of the box holes and the top of the lid.Cut a piece of thread 1 inch longer than this measurement.
  17. Tie one end of the thread to the paperclip. Push the metal fastening clip through the box top and tie the free end of the thread to the clip on the inside of the lid.
  18. Carefully put the lid with the hanging moon on the box.
  19. Prop the flashlight on books or another stable platform with the flashlight inside the hole beneath hole 5.Secure the flashlight with electrical tape.
  20. Switch on the flashlight and observe the moon from 8 positions.

Terms:Astronomy; Cardinal phases; Gibbous;Waning; Waxing


Jane Frances Healey taught for many years at both the college and high school levels. Currently, she's a freelance writer in the San Francisco area, and she enjoys doing research on a wide variety of topics.

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