About the event
Edinburgh Science is more than just an organisation that runs a Festival. Our schools touring programme, Generation Science, is the UK’s longest running STEM outreach programme for primary schools, with 2020 marking our 29th year of operation. Every year we send between 10–15 interactive ‘education environments’, (linked to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence) around the country, visiting schools in each local authority in Scotland and delivering around 1,500 workshops and performances for primary children.
Our Generation Science shows and workshops are designed to engage young learners using larger-than-life props, actions and experiments. We can’t recreate all that in your living room, but we hope that these activities can get you thinking about the topics in our shows.
Day or Night
Best suited for ages 5–8
Day or Night uses storytelling to introduce the movements of the sun, moon and Earth. The characters Benny and Jack lead pupils on an interactive journey to a snapshot in time where they discover any moment can be a different time in another country. Using a range of props the story introduces the concept of the Earth as a sphere that spins on its own axis, meaning some countries are facing the Sun whilst others are in shadow, hence day and night.
The following activities are designed to get young people to think about the moon and the stars, where they are in relation to us and why they change in the night sky.
These questions are designed to get you and your home learners talking about the science behind these activities. We don’t expect you to know everything there is to know about space, but we do find that exploring and questioning what we know inspires us to find out more. Try using some of these Big Questions below to spark curiosity and see what other questions come up as you are completing these activities. We have provided some smaller steps under each question to help with your discussions as you’re exploring.
Starter Question: Why does the moon change shape?
Q: How do the moon, earth and sun move? Can you create models of them and move your models like they move in space?
Hint: The moon orbits (goes around) the earth, and the earth orbits the sun. The moon goes around the earth every 27 days. The earth orbits the sun every 365 (and a quarter) days.
Q: Where does the light from the moon come from? Does it make its own light?
Hint: The moon reflects light from the sun.
Q: Why can we see different parts of the moon lit up? How does the moon’s shape change? Does it always change the same way?
Hint: One half of the moon is always light – whichever half is facing the sun. If the earth is between the sun and the moon, we can see all of the lit side of the moon. We call this a full moon.
Starter Question: Why do stars twinkle?
Q: What are stars? Are they like our sun?
Hint: Stars are just like our sun but can be bigger or smaller. Our sun is a star, the closest one to us.
Q: How far away are the stars?
Hint: Light from the stars is coming from much further away – far beyond the boundary of our solar system. The next star closest to us is about 25 trillion miles away
Q: What could make the light from a star twinkle? Have you heard of the earth’s atmosphere? What does it mean?
Hint: Most stars shine with a steady light, just like our sun. The light from stars is travelling a long way and it gets slightly changed and interrupted by the gases in our atmosphere, and the light appears to twinkle. Our atmosphere is all the air that surrounds our planet.
Q: Is there anything in the night sky that doesn’t twinkle?
Hint: When you can see planets in the sky they don’t twinkle, because they are reflecting our sun’s light and the light is travelling a much shorter distance.
Starter Question: Do we know what is on the other side of the moon?
Q: Have you noticed that we always see the same side of the moon? Why do you think that happens?
Hint: The moon orbits the earth but is “tidal locked”, which means the same side of the moon always faces the earth. The time taken for the moon to spin once is the same as the time it takes to orbit the Earth.
Q: Do you think anyone has ever seen the other side of the moon? What does it look like? How would we know?
Hint: In the 1950’s, probes were first sent to photograph the far side of the moon. Astronauts went to the moon many times and have brought back photos and videos for us to see. Did you know the “far side” of the moon has more craters from asteroid impacts than the side that we can see from earth. The near side is more protected as it never points out towards space.
Extension activities and questions
What other planets have moons? Earth has one moon, can you find out about any planets that have more than one?
A long time ago people named groups of stars in the sky and gave them different names. These are called constellations. Try looking at the stars and find your own shapes, and then look up constellations and see if you can find those shapes in the night sky.
A moving model of our solar system is called an orrery. Try expanding your model of the sun, earth and moon to include more planets. Can you move all the parts yourself? Maybe you can make a video of all the parts moving. You might need some more hands for all the parts.
Try our other Kid’s Lab activities here
Links to help your young learners
This video from the Science Museum shows the movement of the Earth, and how this creates day and night for us.
For an explanation of the far side of the moon, and what is there, have a look at NASA’s page here.
The Artemis Activity book for ages 5–12 has a selection of activities covering codes, space travel and rockets.
To find out more about why the moon appears to change shape in the sky NatGeoKids has a nice explanation here.
A wealth of space related experiments from NASA.
How big is our solar system? Try going on a rocket ship to the outer edges with this interactive from the BBC.