A student stands with the Moon (a balloon) facing the Earth.

Rotation and Revolution of the Moon: Active Model

Students who are blind or visually impaired will understand the revolution of the Moon around the Sun and its rotation through this simple activity.

As I was contemplating how to describe why we only view one side of the Moon, this simple model came to my mind.  Students work in groups of two to model the motion of the Moon around the Earth and the rotation of the Moon.




  1. The student representing the Earth should stand in a fairly open part of the classroom.
  2. Describe the Moon to the students.  Tell them that the side of the Moon that faces Earth does not change and that this activity will help them understand why.  The balloon represents the Moon and the tactile marker represents the side of the Moon facing the Earth.
  3. Have the Moon student face the appropriate side toward the Earth.  Ask the Moon student to think about which cardinal direction he is facing in the classroom (or alternatively toward which object in the classroom he is facing.) This will be important later.  
  4. As the Moon revolves around the Sun, guide the student to keep the same side of the Moon toward the Earth.  (Though the Earth is of course rotating at the same time, it may be easier just to remind the students that this is occuring, but not to physically rotate the Earth for this activity, as it may confuse the main point of the lesson.) 
  5. Say:  “The reason that the same side of the Moon always faces the Earth is that the Moon rotates on its axis in the same period of time (27.3 days) that is revolves around the Earth. 
  6. As the student who is playing the Moon reaches his original location, ask him to think about which direction he is facing in the classroom. (It should be the same as when he started. This is because the Moon rotated once on its axis in the same time that it revolved around the Earth.)
  7. Repeat this activity with the other student as the Moon.


NGSS Standards

Grade 1 – Space Systems, Patterns and Cycles

ESS1.A: The Universe and its Stars

Grade 5 – Space Systems, Stars and Solar Systems

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

Middle School – Space Systems

ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars

By Laura Hospitál

Collage of understanding rotation and revolution of moon

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