Visualizing the Earth and Moon Relationship via Scaled Drawings

Journal Article by: Chuck Fidler and Sharon Dotger Digital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

Students’ difficulties with accurately conceptualizing the relationships among the Earth, Moon, and Sun are well documented. Any teacher who has seen the film A Private Universe (Schneps and Sadler 1988) will remember the challenge the interviewees experienced when trying to explain their understanding of this phenomenon. This paper describes a strategy to help students develop a model of the Earth/Moon relationship that is correct both in terms of the scale sizes and the distances between them and extends previous work present in Science Scope (see Wallace, Dickerson, and Hopkins 2007: Riddle 2006a).

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A selection from Science Scope—December 2009

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  • on Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:05 PM

Often models and drawings found in textbooks and web sites do not take into account the 5 degrees tilt of the Moon's orbit relative to the orbital plane of the Earth around the Sun. These activities help students to see the scale relationships among the objects, their distances, and the Moon’s orbital inclination. Having students determine that Earth's diameter is four Moon diameters and that the distance from the Earth to the Moon is thirty one Earth's diameters helps with developing points of reference.

Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton

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