As the fall months arrive and we begin to enjoy the changing of the leaves, it can be easy to forget that if we look a little higher, the night’s sky can provide us with equally compelling beauty. Thanks to the cold fronts that will begin to wash away the stagnant summer air, the stars are able to shine even brighter.
Not only is stargazing a great activity to do with the whole family, but it’s also an excellent way for students to see some of what they’re learning in their science classes firsthand. For example, over the course of a month, consider challenging your child to draw what the moon looks like each night, to track its different phases. This activity also allows kids to explore how different moon phases have various gravitational effects on the Earth, changing the behavior of the tides.
Full Moon and New Moon
During both full and new moon phases, the ocean tides are at their most pronounced — low tides are very low and high tides are very high.
During quarter moon phases, the ocean’s tides are at their least pronounced. This is due to the gravity from the sun diminishing the moon’s overall gravitational force.
Waxing Gibbous and Waning Crescent
During these phases, the moon is on its way to reaching its full and new phases. For this reason, the strength of the tides will continue to increase in size until they reach their full strength.
Waning Gibbous and Waxing Crescent
During these phases, the moon is transitioning to its quarter phases and the strength of the tides will decrease until it does.
To further reinforce the idea that the moon’s phases have an effect on the tides, after your child draws a picture of what the moon looks like, encourage them to simulate what the tides will look like by creating corresponding waves in a bathtub or large bowl of water.
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