Activity

Phases of the Moon Using Clay

In this hands-on activity, students use clay to model the phases of the moon.

By Shelly Hed, AmeriCorps Service Member

Objective

• The phases of the moon are something that sighted people often take for granted, but for students with visual impairments, it can help to have a tactile model of these shapes to illustrate the abstract terms. In this hands-on this experiment, they create the moon out of clay and can hold it in their hands.

Materials

• A paper cup
• Air dry clay
• A pencil/other straight edge tool that can be used to split the half moon

Preparations

• Have your student help you roll out the clay while you talk about the phases of the moon. Make sure the clay is thick enough that it’ll pop out of the bottom of the stencil easily.

Procedure

• Help your student position the small, sharper edge of the paper cup over the clay. The first circle is going to stay intact – that’s the full moon
• The next one is going to be the gibbous moon – just move the stencil over a little and you’ll have both a gibbous moon AND a crescent moon, thanks to their complementary nature! Feel free to do a second one, if you plan on showing the full cycle of the moon phases.
• Next one is for the half moon. Use the sharp end of the pencil (or other tool) to split a circle of clay in half.
• Let the student check out each piece of clay when they’re dry, and show them the cycle in order!

Variations

• Have some clay left over? Roll it into three balls (large, medium, and small) and model the relationship between the sun, Earth, and moon on your student’s hand. Place the sun in the middle of their palm, then trace the path of the Earth around it. Note the rotation and revolution. Then, add in the moon. If your student is verbal, try quizzing them on what phase of the moon it would be in different positions, keeping in mind the placement of the sun and Earth in relation.