Beacon Lesson Plan Library

3rd Rock from the Sun's Baby Rock

Nicole Micheau
Duval County Schools


Students have a chance to actively see each phase of the moon and make connections to what they see in the sky when you show how the moon goes through each of the phases.


The student understands the relationship between the phases of the Moon and the positions of the Moon, Earth, and Sun as the Moon revolves around the Earth.


-A ball (basketball sized or a nerf ball works fine)
-2 Volunteers
-Overhead projector
-Activity sheets (see attached file)
-A classroom that can get dark
-Computer access to show Website


1. Review the phases of the moon before the demonstration. Refer to the teacher key if necessary. (See attached file.)
2. Prepare the room so that the overhead projector is in the front of the room on a table. During the demonstration, the overhead will be the SUN.
3. Make space so a student (or volunteer) can sit approximately 5 meters in front of the projector. He will hold the globe. This person will represent the EARTH.
4. Have a nerf ball ready to give to the other volunteer. This will represent the MOON. (During the demonstration, this person will revolve around the Earth at a distance of about 1Ĺ to 2 meters away.)
5. Before you run through this with a class, try it to make sure you are getting the desired effects. You can try it alone if you set the projector up in the front of the room. Set a table in the center to represent the EARTH and prop the globe on the table. You will be the MOON. Turn the lights off and go through the steps.
6. If you would like, you can place a piece of tape on the floor to show the student volunteer (MOON) where to stand to demonstrate each phase.


1. Have your connection to the Website ready and able to play loudly enough for the class to hear. Play the small music clip to the TV show [3rd Rock from the Sun] from its Website. Students should recognize the music. Introduce the lesson by asking the students if they can name that tune. Then ask the students if they know what the 3rd rock from the sun is. Accept all responses. If they havenít figured it out, then explain to the students that the 3rd rock from the sun is another way of referring to the Earth. Now ask the students what the baby rock would be. After getting the response, the moon, begin to ask the students what are some ways that the moon appears at night. Some responses should be crescent, first quarter, full moon, etc. Accept all answers. Then explain to the students that they are going to see each of the moonís phases unfold before their very eyes in the class.

2. Instruct the students to get pen/pencil and paper to take notes while the demonstration is going on. While they are getting ready, set up the demonstration. Have the first volunteer sit in the chair which represents the Earth. The EARTH is located approximately 5 meters away from the projector. Have him/her hold the globe above his/her head so that the focus is on the globe and not on him/her. Note: If you have a stand or a flat top desk, you may be able to eliminate the need of having two volunteers. Ahead of time you will need to find a setting that will produce the moon phase effect. Get the other volunteer ready with the nerf ball and place him at a distance of 1Ĺ to 2 meters away from the Earth. Have them stand in the spots until you are ready to proceed.

3. Explain to the students that they are going to see each of the phases of the moon. Also, they may need to move around to see all of the phases. Let them know that as each phase is demonstrated, they should write down the name of the phase and draw a picture of what the phase looks like. (You may need to list the correct terminology on the board as you discuss it.)

4. Have someone turn the lights off and turn the projector on. (Make sure your Earth person is not looking directly at the projector so the light wonít hurt the eyes.)

5. The first phase you should demonstrate is the new moon. This is the phase where the moon can not be seen in the sky. The MOON is located between the sun and the earth. Have the MOON stand between the projector and the Earth person. Point out to the students that the moon is completely dark. Why? Because the sun is behind it. The moon shines because it reflects the sun's light. This is not possible if the moon is located between the sun and the Earth. Make sure the students take this down in their notes. They can represent the moon as a dark circle.

6. The next phase is the waxing crescent. Have the moon move to the right, in a circular fashion, a few steps. The class should notice that there is a lighted area on the moon as opposed to the total darkness that they saw before. The lighted area will look like a crescent. Explain to the class that when the moon phases are approaching a full moon, the phases are referred to as waxing. The shape is like a crescent; therefore, it is called a waxing crescent. Have them take notes on this.

7. Have the student move a few more steps to the right in a circular fashion. The location should be at a right angle from where he started. Now a quarter of the front portion of the ball can be seen. Explain that this phase is known as the first quarter. Explain that only one fourth of the moon is lighted and that is why it is called a quarter. When the phase is waxing, the moon is in its first quarter. Have the students take notes.

8. Have the student move a few more steps to the right in the same circular fashion. Show the students that even more of the moon is lighted now. This phase is the waxing gibbous. Have the students take notes on this.

9. Have the student move a few more steps to the right. The studentís location should be on the opposite side of the earth so the SUN, EARTH, and MOON are in a straight line. The entire surface facing the Earth should be lighted. This phase is the full moon. You may want to point out at this time that the back portion of the moon is dark; therefore, we only see half of the moon. The same side of the moon is always facing Earth because our rate of rotation on the Earth is at the same rate of the moon revolving. So we never see the backside of the moon. On Earth we have never seen the backside of the moon because of this. The only way we have seen it is via photos or unless they have been in a spacecraft. Have the students take notes.

10. For the next three phases have the student move in a fashion as before. Point out that after the full moon, the phases are waning. The first waning phase is a waning gibbous, followed by the third quarter, followed by a waning crescent, then back to the new moon again. Have the students take notes as they have been doing.

11. When the phase is a new moon again, explain that this is a cycle that continues to go on and on and on. It takes about a month to complete.

12. After the demonstration is over and after answering any questions and returning the room to the regular state, have the students complete the activity sheet in the attached file. Circulate around the room and assist students to assess their comprehension. After the students have completed the activity sheet using their notes, go over it to make sure there are no misconceptions.


Students will be given a handout (see attached file) showing the Earth and eight moons which represent the eight phases that the moon goes through. The students are expected to complete the handout by:
1. Specifying where the sun is located.
2. Label where the earth is located.
3. Filling in the circles which represent the moon's phases with a correct drawing showing the phase of the moon.
4. Labeling each of the phases.

Circulate around the room and observe the students working and assist as necessary. Make sure that all students have each of the phases correct on the paper to ensure proper understanding of the demonstration. If the student has some of the phases incorrect, help the student correct his/her paper.

On the students' drawings, they should show the following:
-The location of the sun.
-The location of the earth.
-The location of the moon in the eight different phases.
-The appropriate area demonstrating the particular phase shaded in on the moon.
-Labels on each of the phases.


1. Introducing the topic of lunar and solar eclipses can extend the lesson.
2. For the ESE students, have the students take turns going through and demonstrating the phases, this will act as active learning for them. Instead of having them take notes during the demonstration, go through the demonstration in its entirety. Give the ESE students the handout (attached file). Then go through the demonstration again step by step. After each step, pause and have the students fill in the phase on the activity sheet. Accompany them by having drawings on the board and point out to them what the drawing should look like for each phase. Explain the name of the phase and make sure they spell the words correctly. You may want to have the labels on the board alone with the drawings. That way they are exposed to the information several times to improve retention and understanding.

Web Links

Enter the website and the music will automatically begin to play. The music lasts for about three to five seconds.
3rd Rock From the Sun - The Official Site

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