Scientific Model for Kids
I was humming Moonshadow the whole way home from my mom and dad’s house last night. It was late when we left, almost ten o’clock. Around this time of year I think about how it won’t be long before my parents will be heading back to Florida so we stay a little longer each time we visit. Their house is in a part of town that is darker than ours with a much better view of the night sky. Last night the moon seemed especially bright and it wasn’t even full. It was shining through the trees and our shadows were dancing on the ground. Why was the moon so bright? Why were our shadows so defined? The internet wasn’t much help to me on the subject. It is hard to look up info on moon shadows without getting the Cat Stevens song in your search results! So I tried to made sense of it from what I saw. Last night almost the whole sky was clouded over except where the moon was. There were no stars visible therefore no ambient light from them to dilute the sharp shadows created by the only source of light, the moon. To confirm this theory we created a model to demonstrate the conditions.
Here’s how… We took a shoe box and cut a circle in the top to represent the moon. We also poked a bunch of holes in the top with an awl to represent the stars. We used a piece of black paper to represent the clouds and cut a notch in it so we could cover up the stars (without covering the moon). Then I drew a little person on an index card to cut out and tape inside the box. Our box already had a small hole on the side to peek in. Then we went outside to use the sun as our light source.
I am happy to say it worked! I took the two pictures above through the peek hole with my iPhone and as you can see in the picture on the left (which represents a starry sky) the person casts a much less defined, lower contrasting shadow than the one on the right which represents the sky last night with clouds covering the stars but not the moon.
Models can be a great way to demonstrate and/or simplify complex scientific ideas. We saw lots of models like this at the Boston Museum of Science. Have you used models before? Please share, links welcome!