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Toddler vs moon phases

Last week there was a beautiful full moon out and I told Josie to look at it, and she asked me where the other moon was. You know, the one shaped like *this* and she held up her hand in a crescent shape. I said it was the same moon and tried to explain how sometimes there was a shadow over part of it so we don't see one side of it... I promise I tried to keep all of this very simple. Josie remained convinced that I wasn't understanding her or that i just didn't know there was another moon. Finally I gave up. We'll either try to point out more transitions, or just tackle the topic again next year.

I have to coach new engineers to come to the table with proposals, not just questions. Have a take, research for us, say what we should do and why. From what I've seen Josie has this skill nailed at the age of three. I thought little kids asked "why?" a lot? My daughter just seems to arrive at her own stubborn conclusions with no help.

In related news, I do remember being a kid and thinking there were two earths. One was a "space one" that looked like a big blue marble and had dust and craters and astronauts bouncing around on it. The other one was where we lived. I remember asking if you dug a hole in the space earth, would it show up here? My parents had no idea what I was talking about.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
My preschool teacher used a bright light and a couple of plates to show us how the moon changed shape. She aimed the light at one plate on a table, then moved the other plate in between the light and the table to show us how the shadow covered the plate on the table.
Nov. 25th, 2013 06:20 pm (UTC)
Um, that's not how the phases work. At all.
Nov. 25th, 2013 07:46 pm (UTC)
I never said it was. I merely said it was a useful demonstration on how the moon looks at different times, from our perspective here on earth. It's also simple enough that a toddler can understand.
Nov. 25th, 2013 10:28 pm (UTC)
Given that about 90% of my college-age astronomy students think that it's the shadow of the Earth on the moon that causes phases, I think this is a horrible demonstration. It directly causes that misconception.
Nov. 26th, 2013 09:55 am (UTC)
It's wrong *and* it leads to huge confusion because you just can't produce a gibbous moon shape by obscuring parts of a circle with a different circle... later the child will look at such a moon and think "WTF"?

Also it's silly. Because all you need is a sphere painted half white, half black and to look at it from different angles. I think we had a football (soccer, not US-ian) but other balls, marbles, oranges, etc. could be used.
Nov. 25th, 2013 06:30 pm (UTC)
One of the things that I've done with my girl is point out the moon day to day. You don't just have to do transitions, and since you can find the moon during the day almost all the time (with a little effort when it's thinner) it also dispels the myth that the moon is up only during the night.

But if you do that Josie can watch the moon grow from a crescent to the full moon and then start waning as well. You don't have to wait too long after full before you can see the waning gibbous moon in the day again (full is the only moon you can't see during the day) so she can really watch it come full circle (har har). I wouldn't wait for transitions per se, just show her all the phases.

I haven't even tried the basketball/flashlight demo I do with elementary kids* with my girl yet. I think at some point when their spatial reasoning is a little more developed it can really help a lot to see how it's really the moon is always half-lit, but the part we see most is a combination of shadow side and lit side.

*and college kids. So many have the misconception that the phases of the moon are due to the Earth's shadow.

Edited at 2013-11-25 06:31 pm (UTC)
Nov. 26th, 2013 06:35 am (UTC)
Just wait until she notices earthshine!
Nov. 26th, 2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
I went through a period where somehow I'd gotten it into my head that we lived inside the earth, and that if you kept driving to the horizon long enough, you'd be able to get out and touch the inside of the outer crust.

(Don't ask me where I thought the sky/sun/stars/etc. were...)

We haven't *quite* reached the "why" stage with Gwen -- at least, not from her. I have found myself more and more often asking her "why?" when she makes definitive statements on various subjects. I can't wait for her to start answering me.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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