This fun activity uses movement to help children to understand how the moon and earth move in relation to the sun. Whilst it links particularly well to the curriculum for KS2, it is also a great learning opportunity for children of all ages particularly those working on a space topic.
What is orbit?
An orbit is a regular, repeating path that one object in space takes around another object. For example, the Moon orbits Earth and Earth orbits the Sun. As the Moon and Earth are in orbit around another object in space we call them satellites.
The Moon and Earth are example of natural satellites, but satellites can also be man-made, like the International Space Station.
What shape is an orbit?
Orbits come in different shapes but are all elliptical, similar to an oval shape, this means that the satellite is not always the same distance from the object it orbits.
It takes 365 days for the Earth to orbit the Sun which is the length of time we call a year, the Earth also rotates on its axis as it orbits the sun, rotating completely once each day.
The Moon takes about 28 days to orbit the Earth.
Why do we have seasons?
The axis of the Earth is tilted slightly, meaning that different parts of the Earth’s surface receive different amounts of sunlight and heat. As the Earth orbits the sun, the part of the Earth leaning towards the sun changes with either the Southern Hemisphere or Northern Hemispshere receiving more heat and light making that half of the world warmer. When it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The tilt of the Earth’s axis is an important factor in why we have seasons and the change in weather they bring.
Why do we have day and night?
Only half of the Earth faces the sun at any one time, making it day for that half of the Earth. The half of the Earth facing away from the Sun experiences night time as it doesn’t receive light from the Sun.
Why does the sun seem to move across the sky?
Have you noticed that the Sun seems to move across the sky during the day? This is not the Sun moving, but the Earth rotating making it seem like the Sun is moving across the sky.
We’re going to demonstrate the Moon orbiting the Earth and the Earth orbiting the Sun with a fun activity.
- 3 willing volunteers
- Lolly sticks
- Drawings or pictures of the Sun, Moon and Earth – remember the Sun is bigger than the Earth and the Earth bigger than the Moon
- Attach the drawings/pictures to the lolly sticks and ask each volunteer to hold one, making them the Sun, Moon or Earth.
- The ‘Sun’ stands in the middle while the ‘Earth’ orbits them.
- The ‘Moon’ orbits the ‘Earth’ at the same time.
Things to think about
- Remember the Earth also rotates on it’s axis as it orbits the Sun.
- The Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical shape, not a circle.
- In summer the Sun is higher in the sky meaning the light hits the Earth at a steep angle, what effect do you think this has on shadows?
Suitable for Key Stage 2 Science
This post was written by Emma of Science Sparks
Emma is a busy Mum to three who is passionate about science education. You can find Emma’s experiments and activities over at Science Sparks which is full of fun, creative and engaging science based activities for children of all ages, perfect for home or school. Find out more at Science Sparks www.science-sparks.com
For more science activity ideas visit our primary science pages or follow us on Pinterest.