Moon Phases Experiment

By | January 3, 2014

Moon Phases Experiment

Over the Holidays I had my whole family here.  I think I have mentioned before I came from a family of Science teachers.  My father was a Chemistry Professor before he retired last year and my sister teaches Biology to High School kids.  So since they both were here I thought I would have them help me with this fun Moon Phases Experiment.

I have to admit that when I first thought of this experiment I thought the Moon phases were caused by the shadow of the earth on the moon, which is a pretty common misconception.  However my dad was quick to point out my error and show us all how the Moon Phases actually come from the Sun’s reflection on the Moon.  This experiment is a great way to show this.

We found that the larger the Styrofoam ball we used the better for this experiment.  Since the balls are porous some lite can shine through the smaller ones and make it harder to see the shadows.  We also had an issue with the light bouncing off the wall behind us so we used black paper to act as Space to help prevent that from happening.

If you want to show the kids a great diagram with all the phases of the moon that explains it all really well please check out this one at

What is happening with this experiment? For this experiment the Camera is the Earth, our Flashlight is the Sun, and the ball on the stick is the moon.  The kids will learn that the Moon Phases come from the reflection of the sun’s light not the shadow of the Earth.  You will also see that for a Full Moon the Sun is behind the Earth and the Moon is in front, while for a New Moon the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun.

Don’t forget to check out our other Science Experiments HERE!


Black Tissue Paper
Styrofoam Ball
Cooking Skewer (or small wooden dowel)


on Phases ExperimentHave one child hold up your black paper
(This helps to keep the light from bouncing back onto the ball from behind)
Stick your skewer into your Styrofoam ball (aka The Moon)

on Phases ExperimentTo show the full moon shine the Sun (your flashlight) directly onto your moon.
Note: that the Sun and the Earth are in about the same position here. Which is why we see the Full moon reflecting the Sun’s Light.

on Phases ExperimentMove your Moon around the Sun a little to show another phase of the moon.
Notice how part of the Moon is now in shadow. on Phases ExperimentContinue moving the Moon around the Sun to show how the positioning causes part of the moon to be in shadow.

on Phases ExperimentThe kids can clearly see a crescent moon in this shot.

on Phases ExperimentAnd here you can only see a small sliver of the moon.
The next phase will have the Sun in the direct opposite position of the Earth and the moon will be totally cast in shadow, this last phase is called the New Moon.

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36 thoughts on “Moon Phases Experiment

  1. April

    I just spoke about this with my son! I was wrong. I guess we’ll have to do the experiment so we know facts! Pinned! Thanks for sharing and linking up with Countdown in Style! Don’t forget to come back on Friday to see if you were featured!


    1. wemadethat Post author

      LOL, I was wrong too so don’t feel bad. I don’t ever remember learning this in school. It is a fun experiment and the kids enjoyed it, I hope you and your son do too!

  2. Stephanie Kay

    What a fun experiment!! My kids would enjoy learning about the moon in a hands on way. Thanks for sharing via Family Fun Friday.

  3. Brittnei

    I like the idea of doing this one as well! I’ve never tried this one myself, but I would love to try it with my son when he gets a little older. I’m going to pin this one too! I’m liking all the projects that you share that you are doing with your kids! :)

    1. wemadethat Post author

      THANKS Brittnei! We have been having some Science fun lately. I just love how the kids enjoy all the science projects, I hope you son enjoys them when he is older too!

  4. Julie

    I like that you used styrofoam balls. I just started posting our astronomy activities. This week it was star maps and moon phases are coming next week.

    1. wemadethat Post author

      I need to do some star maps with the girls. I am going to wait till summer though so we can go outside and look at the stars too. I am a wimp when it comes to cold.

  5. Jill

    This looks like it would be a lot of fun for kids and adults too. I am going to come back to this so I can try it with my children.

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

    1. wemadethat Post author

      Oh it is, My husband, sister, brother-in law, dad and I all had just as much fun with this one as the girls did. It is one of those experiments that is great for all ages!

  6. Jill F.

    Thank you for making science accessible for all! Thank you for joining the Thumping Thursday bloghop.

  7. Amber L.

    This is awesome! I just pinned it. My five year old has been asking why the moon changes and even though we have explained it I think this will help it sink in.

    1. wemadethat Post author

      My daughter was asking too, that is one of the reasons I wanted to do this one. It really does help to explain it. So glad you like this one!

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  8. Easy Life Meal & Party Planning

    What a wonderful learning experience and I bet all kids would love to do this plus it looks easy to pull together. I know my granddaughter would really like this. I will have to do this with her! I always look forward to your posts. Thanks for sharing on the Four Seasons Blog Hop.

  9. susan

    What a great way to illustrate the phases of the moon. Thanks for sharing at Inspire Us Thursday at Organized 31.

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