This moon phases science experiment shows the different stages of the moon and is perfect for little space fans or a school science fair project.
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It’s science fair season, and SCIENCE is my favorite subject!
This month’s FloraCraft® Make It: Fun challenge was to use their large foam balls to create a project worthy of a science fair.
It was tough to come up with something different than a cell or the Earth’s layers or something like that which these balls are perfect for.
I opted for visualizing the phases of the moon.
It’s not a project you see very often, and one of these large foam balls make a perfect Earth!
Let me show you how to put it together and make it work.
Moon Phases Science Experiment Supplies:
2 small dowel rods (1/4″ diameter)
Twine (not shown)
FloraCraft® Make It: Fun® Foam Sheet
FloraCraft® Make It: Fun® 8″ Foam Ball
FloraCraft® Make It: Fun® 2″ Foam Ball
Acrylic paint (blue, green, light gray, dark gray, and black)
Moon Phases Science Experiment: Paint
Start by painting the foam balls. Insert the toothpick into the 2″ foam ball.
Paint the ball with the light gray paint then, once dry, randomly dab the darker gray paint over the gray to mimic the look of the moon.
Paint the toothpick black.
Paint the 8″ foam ball blue.
Once dry, go back and paint the continents with the green.
They don’t have to be perfect, just a generalization of the landmasses.
Moon Phases Science Experiment: Foam
Trim the foam sheet into an approximately 8″x14″ piece.
You may need to stack a smaller extra piece of foam for inserting the globe (see above).
Cut one of the dowel rods to ~6″ long.
Insert one end into the bottom of the globe and the other into the end of the foam sheet.
Attach the moon to the globe so that it appears above the globe.
Fasten the flashlight near the end of the other dowel rod by wrapping it with the twine and tying it off.
You want the flashlight to be perpendicular to the dowel rod.
Moon Phases Science Experiment: Setup
Insert the dowel rod with the flashlight to the opposite end of the foam sheet as shown above.
You want the flashlight tall enough to be able to hit the moon with it’s light.
For the experiment to be seen at it’s best you need to wait until dark, place the experiment in a dark room, or enclose the experiment in a large box.
Turn on the flashlight, which is now acting as our sun.
Just like the Earth, one side of the moon is always facing the sun, meaning half of the moon is always lit and half is always not lit.
But because of the moon’s rotation around the Earth, we don’t always see all of the moon that is lit.
To observe the phases of the moon you need to look at it from the perspective of the Earth.
When the moon is the furthest away from the sun, as shown above, the Earth is seeing a full moon.
As the moon rotates around the Earth, shadows are cast on the moon giving it it’s various phases: full, gibbous, half, crescent, and new.
Shown above are the full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent.
As the moon continues to rotate around the Earth it will also experience the new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter and waxing gibbous before reaching a full moon once again.
Here you can see the Earth experiencing the new moon, when the moon’s shadow side is completely exposed to Earth so that it is not visible.
All of the lit side is facing the sun.
It takes about a month for the moon to rotate completely around the Earth.
This is a fun project and a great visual for kids to see why the moon looks the way it does during it’s phases.
If your kids have any interest in stars and space, they will enjoy this moon phases science experiment!
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Looking for another fun science experiment?
Fun Harry Potter themed experiments: Potions Class Part 1 and Potions Class Part 2
Tuesday 14th of January 2020
What a beautiful project! Can you comment on how you move the earth/moon structure to make the shadows mimic the rotation of the moon? Also, how did you know how far to put the light source from the earth? Thank you!
Wednesday 22nd of January 2020
Thank you, Maki! The sun will stay in constant position while you rotate the earth on it's dowel rod. Since the moon is "attached" to the Earth with a toothpick it rotates with the Earth. From the Earth's perspective, parts of the moon will go into shadow since the sun cannot shine on it.
I didn't do anything scientific when it came to the location/distance of the moon and sun from the Earth. The distances aren't crucial for this experiment. You mainly need to focus on making sure that the sun can create a full moon when the moon is positioned at the back of the Earth. You can see that the sun and moon are roughly level in the first photo. And the moon will stay level with the sun as it rotates around the Earth.
I hope this helps!
Mother of 3
Monday 8th of April 2019
That is a great idea! We tried a similar experiment but I had my kids hold the balls and flashlight (I have tree boys so it was perfect!) and walk slowly around one another but I think this would work so much better. Pinned.
Thursday 6th of April 2017
What a cool experiment! Featuring on Family Fun Friday.
Thursday 6th of April 2017
What a fun educational activity! Your photographs are beautiful, too. Thanks for sharing at Funtastic Friday!
Saturday 1st of April 2017
What a neat science project. Sending this to my daughter. Thanks for sharing at Over The Moon Party. Hope you come back next week so I can stop by again. Hugs, Bev