What it is: The Endeavour Shuttle launch has been delayed but don’t let that keep your students from exploring space, there are some incredible interactive sites that will make your students feel like they get to suit up as astronauts. Moon Zoo gives students the chance to study the lunar surface while contributing to real science. Students can get an up close and personal view of the moon viewing images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Moon Zoo’s mission is to provide detailed crater counts for as much of the moon’s surface as possible. Your students can take part in actually helping to count and map out craters and features of the lunar surface. Students can identify craters with boulders around the rim to help map the regolith across the surface of the moon. To take part in Moon Zoo, students are shown an image of the lunar surface, the first task is identifying craters in the surface. Students can click on the “Crater” button and click the center of each crater they see. Next, students adjust the ellipse to stretch and move their marks so that they are the same size as the crater. Students search for boulders around the craters, if there are any boulders students can note that by selecting “blocky crater” and marking the most appropriate description. When finished, students can submit their work to the Moon Zoo database.
How to integrate Moon Zoo into the classroom: I love that Moon Zoo actually lets your students take part in science. They are contributing to actual lunar research in real and meaningful ways while learning about the moon. Moon Zoo would be a great activity to complete as a whole class in the elementary classroom. Tell your students that they are going to be astronauts and complete a “launch” to the moon. If you have time, students can create official astronaut badges to wear for the big launch. Using a projector-connected computer or an interactive whiteboard, launch one of the shuttles here. When you “land” on the moon, let students explore the surface together by hunting for craters in Moon Zoo. Help students mark craters, look for boulders and map the lunar surface. Each student should have a chance to make a discovery. While students wait for their turn, they can track the crater/boulder count on a table to create a graph. Categories can be small, medium, and large craters found and number of boulders.
Older students can sign up for their own Moon Zoo account, each studying and identifying craters on their own images. Older students can dig into the science behind mapping craters and learn about how craters can be used to date the moon.
Want to involve your students in more contributing science? Check out Galaxy Zoo (the hunt for supernovas), Galaxy Zoo Hubble, Planet Hunters, or the Milky Way Project. This is such a neat way for students to contribute to the scientific community while learning more about space and the universe.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Moon Zoo in your classroom!