A towel with a magnet on it represent the position during high tide.

Tidal Cycles: Interactive Model

In this active model, students with visual impairments "play" the role of the Earth and the Moon to better comprehend the tidal cycles.

I found that my students were struggling to understand why the tides are later (50 minutes) each day. As I contemplated how to make this content more clear, this simple activity came to me.  It seemed to help students grasp the effect on tidal cycles of the rotation of the Earth and the Moon.  Students themselves “play” the roles of the rotating Earth and Moon.  

I would recommend this activity be completed before reading about the tidal cycles as the content will be more comprehensible after the activity.  It may be repeated after more formal instruction on the content.

Related Vocabulary:



  1. Place a rectangular mat that is tall enough for students to feel tactually on the ground with an object large enough to be felt tactually with the foot on one end. I improvised and used a folded towel and a large magnet. (See picture.)
  2. Look up when high tide and low tide occurs on the day on which you are doing this activity at a location near you or familiar to the students for use in the activity. 


I.  Begin by introducing the activity – Why do the tides occur later each day?  Discuss.

II.  Starting position of the Earth and the Moon

III.  Rotation of the Earth and Moon

IV.  Closure:

Students will individually write a description of why the tides are 50 minutes later each day.  This can be used as an assessment measure of their understanding.  For some groups, this could be done as a discussion or students could work in groups of two with one scribing. 


Rather than the teacher looking up the high and low tides, if time allows, students can be asked to do so at the beginning of class.

NGSS Standards

Middle School – Space Systems
ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars

Collage of tidal cycles

By Laura Hospitál

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