The Lunar Lollipop Lab is a great introductory lab for teaching moon phases because it allows students to visually observe the changing phases of the moon as a result of the relative positions of the Sun, Earth and moon. Don't just teach it...let your students EXPERIENCE it. By the end of the lab, students should understand why/how we have moon phases and should be able to predict the next phase in a sequence.
Each student will hold a moon pop in their hand. The lamp in the center of the room will represent the Sun and their head will represent the Earth. They will rotate to the left (counter-clockwise), modeling how the moon revolves around the Earth. With each 45 degree turn, students will see the moon pop take on different shapes. They will label the phases, hypothesize the meaning of waxing and waning, and predict, draw and label the next phase in a given sequence of moon phases.
Student handout and teacher answer key are provided. I have also included detailed teacher prep instructions as well as some helpful teaching tips.
You will need to provide the dark room, the lunar lollipops (various ideas are included to make these - very simple!), and a simple lamp in the center of the room. Possible supplies needed to make the lunar lollipops include: small styrofoam balls, ping pong balls (or something similar) and pencils or wooden dowels to stick in the ball as a handle.