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August 01, 2015

Where is the moon now?

One interesting conversation I had recently was asking the children where they expect the moon to be. When we talk about how disruptive technology can be an app line startracker that shows the position of the moon 'right now' gets into a lot of how children think.

From the first answer in the sky to where in the sky then conversations on what happens during the day and night. I asked the same question over time to different children and with the changing position of the moon it enlightned different aspects of learning. Here are some of them:

1) In an initial thought most children thought the moon rises and falls consistently at more of less the same time. So it should be the other side of the earth. But on looking for the moon it was noticed in a very unexpected place. 

We then decided to for the moon and record where we see it and the time we saw it. That was a week before the new moon and a lot of children came back with there was no moon this week, but some others noticed that they saw it in the morning. We talked about sometimes seeing moon even after sunrise and sometimes even before sunset. What this all this mean?
2) Drawing the expected position of the moon and trying to represent meaningful information of a 3 Dsetting in 2D that led to frame of reference direction and directions. This led to discussions of which plane we can draw aka where does the moon rise and set. It was interesting that there was a child in each class who through that once the sun sets in the west the moon rises from the west.

3) While most children disagreed to the above they could not give any convincing argument to their peer other than that's the way it is.
There was some discussion of how the moon rises and sets. We have been talking about differentiating science from information i.e. being able to understand a phenomenon so we can use our understanding to explain another phenomenon.
One of them was understanding the revolution of the earth which explained both the sun and the moon rising from the east.

4) The children got some clue of which of their classmates were conveying useful information regarding their sightings and which were just making stuff up :).

5) Discussions on fractions! Based on where the moon we talked about where the moon would have been ( earth) 12 hrs before 6 hrs before and then the more open ended question of when would the moonrise have been. I say open-ended because it brought up the question of at what degree do we consider it moonrise and what the present angle is...

6) It brought up interest on how to create an animated model of the moon around earth, in fact about the moon and earth around Sun.

7) And then the question, how does the camera see that far in the sky :). 
I moved the discussion to possible ways of doing it including a three axis accelerometer that helps is determine where we are looking + gps + the star map + calculation of the moon and planet movements and how that was a cool way to use math. The children immediately got the wiff that I have switched from anna mode to 'teacher' mode and they started to loose interest. One of them even remarked that then we can't see the man-made satellites. 

I learnt my lesson and decided to keep my agenda of teaching something aside to avoid messing up with their learning. When asked this question the second time by another set of kids  just stuck with, 'no clue, but isn't it cool!'

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