Universe Cycle - Solar System (1)

  • Exploring planets in our Solar System that have satellites.
  • Discovering the surface of some planets.
  • craters
  • meteorite
  • Moon
  • planet
  • satellite
  • Moon Photos 
  • Sand
  • Moon Surface Box - assemble in advance
  • Play dough - make in advance or purchase
  • cardboard or styrofoam trays
  • Zoom, Zoom (song)  by Hy Zaret and Lou Singer

Students observe and create the surface of the Moon.

Earth's Moon


The surface of many of the planets and moons are different than the Earth. The Earth’s surface is hard, and is composed of solid rock. The Earth’s surface continually changes, due to the presence of liquid water and life, and the activity of plate tectonics.

The large gas giant planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus, all have outer surfaces composed mainly of gas. You could not really land on the surface of these planets; there is no "ground" as we know it. However, many of the moons or satellites of the gas giant planets have a cratered surface similar to our Moon.

The other inner planets, Mercury, Venus, and Mars have a hard rocky surface like the Earth. However, many of these planetary surfaces are inactive, and covered with craters like the Moon. The surface of Pluto is probably rocky, but has not been clearly observed yet.


  1. This activity concentrates on the surface of the Moon. Learning about the Moon's surface helps students to observe and describe the other rocky planets. Explain the basic components of the Solar System, including  the Sun, the nine planets and their moons.

  2. Use the song "Zoom, Zoom" so children can get a feeling for what the Moon is like. 


    Zoom a little zoom in a rocket ship,
    off we go on a trip!
    Heading for the moon at a rocket clip
    We’re going to zoom, zoom  - rocket

    Zoom a little zoom, now we’ve almost  free,
    from the Earth’s gravity.
    Zooming to the moon at terrific speed
    Because there is no friction

    Soon, we’ll see if the Moon is made of green cheese  ha, ha, ha, ha
    Zoom we’re here at the moon
    let’s see what the moon is like

    Look at those high mountains and wide craters and jagged peaks… and look at that great big moon up there
    That isn’t the moon, that’s our Earth
    Oh, We’ve landed. I feel so light
    Watch me jump,  30 feet, a world’s record
    oh that is easy on the moon,
    Keep your suit on, remember there is no air around here

    Zoom a little zoom in a rocket ship
    home we go on a trip
    Coming back to earth at a rocket clip
    We're going to zoom, zoom - rocket

    Zoom a little zoom in a rocket ship
    off we go on a trip!
    Heading for the moon at a rocket clip
    We’re going to zoom, zoom  - rocket

    Zoom a little zoom, now we’ve almost  free
    from the Earth’s gravity
    Zooming to the moon at terrific speed
    Because there is no friction

    Soon we see if the Moon is made of green cheese
    ha, ha, ha, ha
    Zoom were here at the moon
    let’s see what the moon is like

    Zoom a little zoom in a rocket ship
    home we go on a trip
    Coming back to earth at a rocket clip
    We’re going to zoom, zoom - rocket


  3. Show the students photos of the Moon. Ask them what is different about the surface of the Moon compared with the Earth They should be able to see that the Moon has many craters, with no trees, or rivers. The craters are caused when meteorites (or big space rocks) hit the surface of the Moon. The Earth has also been hit by meteorites, but wind, water, and ice have covered up and destroyed their craters.

  4. Tell the students that a long time ago people told stories about the Moon to explain its light, movement and changes in shape. The Romans believed that the goddess Diana drove a pale, silvery chariot across the heavens each night. However, she often preferred to go hunting on Earth, and would leave the night sky dark while she chased the animals.

    In Burma, some people believed that the Moon was a silver rabbit that lived in a box. On the first night after the new Moon, the rabbit would open the box to peek out a little. He would gradually open the lid wider until he was completely out of the box, at the full Moon. The rabbit would then reenter the box slowly, until he was all the way in, at the new Moon. The lid would then shut, and the night would be completely dark.

    There were also stories about the "face" in the Moon. Show the students a picture of the Moon that is shadowed properly to show the "face". Tell them that ancient peoples saw different pictures in these shadows. The Iroquois Indians saw a woman who is weaving a forehead strap. These straps were used to carry burdens. When she finishes the strap, the world will come to an end. But when she gets up, the cat that is always at her side unravels the strap, and she must start over.

    The Malayans of Southeast Asia see an old hunchback man, who is sitting under a tree making a fishing line. When he finishes the fishing line, he wants to fish up everything on Earth. He never gets finished because a rat chews the line in two, so he has to start all over.

  5. Show the students the pictures of the Moon.  If you purchased a Moon photo from the Math Science Nucleus, you would be receiving original prints of the photos produced by the U.S. Geological Survey from the original Apollo missions when they were mapping the surface of the Moon.  These photos are from 1965.  Otherwise, you can look on the internet for pictures of the surface of the moon.

    Using a Moon Box, have the students experience the surface of the moon.   If you want a large box for the entire class you would need to make the box prior to the lab. 

    Have the students each put a hand inside the MOON SURFACE BOX without looking into the box. They will feel that the surface is pitted, and covered with a little loose material. Next, have them look inside the box, to see a make believe, eerie scene from the Moon.  You may want to have them compare the craters in the box with the craters on the pictures. Make sure the students understand that craters are three dimensional.


    large box with lid (storage box)
         plaster of Paris
         glow in dark stickers (star shaped)
         black or brown spray paint

    1. If necessary, cut a hole in the side of the box; the students will look through this at the "moonscape".

    2. Paint the box black, both inside and out.

    3. Mix Plaster of Paris in a bucket. Spread a layer of Plaster of Paris on the inside of the box. Make a cratered scene, so it looks like the Moon's surface. Let it dry thoroughly before continuing.

    4. Paint the craters gray and brown, to make them look realistic. Make a scene on one side of the box with the glow in the dark stickers. Students will be "peeking" in one of the holes so make sure the stickers

    5. Sprinkle a little sand on the surface to simulate "ejecta" thrown out by meteorite impacts.

  6. Next, tell students that they are going to recreate the surface of the Moon using playdough. Give each child enough play dough to be able to cover their tray. You may also give each child a rock or other hard object to help them make craters. Make sure that real pictures of the Moon’s surface are available, so that the students can accurately model it. You can also add a little sand on the surface of the craters to simulate material thrown out of craters.


    250 ml flour
         125 ml salt
         5 ml cream of tartar
         250 ml water
         about 1/2 ml food coloring
         about 1/2 ml oil

    Cook this mixture, over medium heat, stirring it constantly until it forms a dough-like texture. Knead it briefly, after the mixture has cooled. Multiply this recipe by 6 to get enough for a class of 30 students, but it should be made in two batches. Large amounts of dough are difficult to stir because the mixture becomes firm. Store the play dough in a plastic bag or a margarine container.

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