Lunar Dynamics Board

Astronomy topics don’t often lend themselves to many hands on activities.  Physics and Chemistry are well known for having lots of labs, but Astronomy has fewer in comparison.  One of my enduring goals is to make hands on activities for various Astronomy topics.

When studying lunar orbit, phases of the moon and eclipses there are tons of diagrams and online simulations but little to no hands on modeling activities.  I feel that multiple modes of exposure are necessary to connect as many brain pathways as possible – as the number of connections goes up, so does retention, long term recovery and learning.  My lessons require students to draw diagrams and use the online simulations but I always feel that getting your hands on a model of the topic is extremely valuable as well.

I made the lunar dynamics board to offer students a more real-life model of how actual light and shadows are projected upon the moon and the Earth during various steps of the lunar orbit.

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The prototype set: the orbit board, Earth and moon markers and a lamp for the sun

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you can clearly see the shadow of the moon on the Earth, demonstrating a solar eclipse

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cutting the boards for a class set

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here the Earth is casting a shadow on the moon, demonstrating a lunar eclipse

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a drill press was required to get precisely straight inward holes into the board so the foam balls would be perfectly straight up

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