Unit Study: Moon 月球

A month overdue.  We’ve been done with the moon unit for a few weeks now.  Just found all the pics.  

At the beginning of elementary school year, a study on time is warranted, as you need to have the concept of time in order to study history.  In Montessori, the passage of time can be experienced in different ways in addition to learning how to tell time, which the kids both learned last year.

This year, I thought we would experience the passage of time by studying the moon.  This will kill two birds with one stone.  Astroboy will be learning the names of the phases of the moon as well.

We did this all in August and September.  Though the kids interest waned after a bit half way through, I’m still glad at least Astroboy now can tell me what waxing crescent is in Chinese.

Activity #1: Moon log

Rather than starting with learning the nomenclature, I thought we would start by keeping a moon log.  Partly because when I was researching the names of the moon, it was never as simple as the abstract pictures I saw on paper.   This would also give Astroboy a sense of the passage of time.

IMG_6732 copy

The moon log for Thumper included direction so that she can see that the moon travels if she observes the moon nightly.  It isn’t a requirement though because I wanted them to see that sometimes the moon comes out in the morning.

Though it would have pleased me to no end if both kids remember to look for the moon every night, it doesn’t happen.  Thankfully I’ve gone through this once 2 years ago and now I just remind them and don’t get mad about it.  However, they do marvel at the moon whenever they do happen to catch a glimpse.

Activity #2:  Poster to learn nomenclatureIMG_6786

Our completed moon log

Our completed moon log

A typical Montessori activity is making a booklet of the phases of the moon.  However, it seemed closer to reality to have Astroboy glue all of his observations onto a huge sheet of paper so we can see the progression of the moon.  We then went through each sheet one by one and tried to learn the nomenclature.  When you do it this you can see that the waxing crescent repeats for many days but things like new moon or full moon only happen one day.

We weren’t too great about observing the moon every day.  But the good thing is, I made a moon calendar for our school calendar so we could always refer back to it and compare.

Activity #3: Oreo cookie moons


the Last Quarter moon with my DIY moon calendar

Next up, we went upstairs to eat our Trader Joe’s oreo cookies.  I took out 8 cookies and we went through all of the moon names again while we made the cookie.  Before the kids could eat it, they had to tell me the name.  For Thumper, she was asked the names in English instead.  Astroboy cannot for the life of him remember these names.  Either I’m just really bad at teaching nomenclature, or he just has a hard time remembering names.  I think it’s a bit of both.   But he did have a good time eating the cookies.  He even had a running joke.

A: “媽媽,你要問我這是什麼月亮“  Mama, you have to ask me what is the name of this moon.
Me: “Astroboy, 這是什麼月亮?“  What’s the name of this moon?
A:”我不能跟你說,因為太好吃了. ”  I can’t tell you because it’s too delicious.  *chomp chomp giggle giggle*

What I did the next day was, offered him a cookie during snack time and ask him what moon shape cookie he wants to eat and then cut out such a shape with a toothpick.  Hopefully with enough repetition and actual “doing”, he will remember it.

Activity #4: Lunar Calendar


Super proud of my bilingual calendar, only because it took me hours to do.

Going back to the classroom calendar, we’re going to look at it daily and talk about the name of the phase of the moon.

Activity #5: Phases of the moon calendar

To help Astroboy learn to read the names, eventually I did resort to having him make a booklet.  I think it worked well for us to learn the name aurally though.  It’s so hard to learn new words that you don’t use daily.

Activity #6: A Song about the Moon

Thankfully someone reminded me that there are songs we can sing about the moon!  I played this during lunch time, in the car, etc.  It’s a super easy song for kids to pick up.  I also used it in our Writing with Ease Chinese curriculum.  Thumper learned how to write all the characters she didn’t know from this song.

Activity #7: Books about Mid-Autum festival and moons, of course

Sorry, no books I can specifically recommend because we just borrowed it from Books and Me Library.

Names in Chinese

Unfortunately the names of the moon phase in Chinese isn’t as easy as English, which is just variations of the words gibbons, waning, waxing, quarter.

You can dig really deep into the names of the moon in Chinese because it’s way more specific than it is in English.  On top of that, there are multiple ways you can say it.  Understandable since the Chinese calendar used to be a lunar calendar.  For example, I often see 朔 and 望 for New moon and full moon.  And if you look at it it has the 月 character in there!  But those are actually very specific instances of the moon.  So for young children, I decided to fudge it and not teach that.

月相 - Phases of the Moon
新月 - New Moon
眉月 - Waxing crescent (right side 1-49%)
上弦月 – First Quarter (right side 50%)
盈凸月 – Waxing gibbous (right side 51-99%)
滿月 – Full moon (100%)
虧凸月 – Waning gibbous (left side 51-99%)
下弦月 – Last quarter (left side 50%)
殘月 – waning crescent (left side 1-49%)

I want to make a note that you say 月球 instead of 月亮 when you’re talking about the more scientific name of the moon.

Trick for remembering 

Here’s a trick I came across to remember how the phases of the moon works.  On your right hand, form a closed fist.  That is your new moon.  Then slowly open your fist and that kind of signals the moon getting brighter and brighter from the right hand side.   Once you reach the full moon,  move on to an opened left hand.  Slowly form that back into a fist.  That shows the moon getting darker and darker from the right side.

My first unit study.  So happy I’m actually planning curriculum and trying to follow through.  I felt so bad Thumper was able to learn all her moon nomenclature in preschool and I was not able to get it in last year homeschooling.  And not only that but I was finally able to tie in Music, Language Arts in addition to Science with it…..Too bad we didn’t have time to make a moon and starts mobile…


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