Graphic of sun

Relating Tides to the Moon Phases

In this active model, students who are blind or visually impaired will compare the relationship of the Sun, Moon, and Earth during the phases of the Moon and relate this to the tides.

We just covered the phases of the Moon, with tides as our next topic of study. It occurred to me that the Phases of the Moon – Active Model would work well to explain this concept as well as how higher tidal ranges occur during spring tides (New Moon and Full Moon) and lower tidal ranges occur during Neap Tide (First Quarter and Third Quarter).  This served a double purpose, both clarifying the concepts of spring tides and neap tides, as well as reinforcing students’ understanding of the phases of the Moon. 

Please read over this procedure prior to completing the activity.  I have included in this procedure all of the questions to add for the added content.

If an APH globe is not available, the student themselves can represent the earth and the moon.  Please see variations. 




After initial instruction on spring tides and neap tides, students are proceeding through the phases of the Moon as per Phases of the Moon – Active Model.

Add the following questions about the tides to each phase described.  Describe the phase of the Moon, but do not focus on the amount of the Moon that is visible as you proceed through the phases.  Instead focus on the configuration of the Sun, Earth, and Moon as it relates to the tides.

1. New Moon
2. Proceed to First Quarter
3. Proceed to Full Moon 
4. Proceed to Third Quarter


Have the student describe the tides related to the phases of the Moon while using a tactile drawing or model.  The student should begin at New Moon and proceed through the phases.  The tactile drawing from the APH Astronomy kit of the phases of the Moon is well-made.

If time allows, have the student use Jim Clark’s model stationary model Sun- Earth-Moon-System Model to also show his/her understanding of how the phases of the Moon and tidal ranges are related. 


NGSS Standards

Grade 5 – Space Systems

PS2.B: Types of Interactions

The gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth’s surface pulls that object toward the planet’s center. (5-PS2-1)

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
The orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, together with the rotation of Earth about an axis between its North and South poles, cause observable patterns. These include day and night; daily changes in the length and direction of shadows; and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year. (5-ESS1-2)

Middle School – Space Systems
ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars
Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models. (MS-ESS1-1)

High School: Forces and Interactions

PS2.B: Types of Interactions
Newton’s law of universal gravitation and Coulomb’s law provide the mathematical models to describe and predict the effects of gravitational and electrostatic forces between distant objects. (HS-PS2-4)
Forces at a distance are explained by fields (gravitational, electric, and magnetic) permeating space that can transfer energy through space. Magnets or electric currents cause magnetic fields; electric charges or changing magnetic fields cause electric fields. (HS-PS2- 4), (HS-PS2-5)

By Laura Hospitál

Collage of relating tides to the moon phases

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