Phases of Moon Model
Before students can understand solar or lunar eclipse, they need to grasp the interplay of light and shadow that results in the Moon phases seen from Earth. This simulation-based resource, authored by astronomy professor Todd Timberlake, is highly recommended by the editors. Students will use the model to explore how the relative position of Sun, Earth, and Moon produce the various moon phases. Middle School Teachers: This resource contains a simulation developed specifically for the middle grades, with a complete lesson plan. First, click "Details" (below), then click "Supplemental Documents" on the Detail Page.
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NASA Glenn Research Center: Earth-Moon Model Activity
This link takes you to the Educator's Guide for NASA's "How High Is It" instructional unit. Scroll to the first activity, the "Ball and String Earth-Moon Model". Using a baseball, soccer ball, or basketball to represent Earth, students are challenged to make their own models of the moon to scale. The lesson is completely turn-key, with explicit directions for preparation, procedures, data tables, worksheet, and teacher content support on the mathematics behind the model. Highly recommended by the editors.
PBS Learning Media: Solar Eclipses
This 2-minute video, adapted from NASA, contains a physical model and a useful animation for visualization of how solar eclipses happen and why they are so difficult to witness. It explains with great clarity why only those who are located directly within the new Moon's umbra will be able to see a total eclipse. Those outside this area in the penumbra will see a partial eclipse. Resource also includes a Background Essay and Discussion Questions.
PBS Learning Media: Total Solar Eclipse Animation
This short animated video explains why Earth is alone in the solar system in its experience of total solar eclipse events. It happens because of a fluke of orbital geometry: the sun is 400 times wider than the moon AND it is 400 times farther away from Earth than the moon. This is the remarkable coincidence that makes the sun and moon appear (to people on Earth) to be the same size as they gaze into the heavens. And it's why we experience the phenomenon of total eclipse of the sun.
NASA Connect: Path of Totality - Measuring Angular Size & Distance
This hands-on activity for Grades 6-8 challenges learners to create a shoebox eclipse simulator using triangles and proportions. They will apply what they learn about angular size to predict the diameter and distance of one object that can be eclipsed by another. This resource is completely turn-key, providing in-depth background information on eclipse science, front-loaded vocabulary set, ideas for elicitation, journal prompts, discussion questions with expected responses, student handouts with explicit directions, and data tables. Great way to integrate science and math.