Shed light on planets

23rd March 2007 at 00:00
Hard day's night? No, this CD explains simply the movements of Moon, Sun and Earth

Earth, Sun and Moon

CD-Rom; Learning Connections pound;29.95 site licence, plus VAT and pp; Tel: 07733 183012;

Ages nine-10

It's a good question for primary pupils: is there a dark side of the Moon? The answer, of course, is no: the Sun shines on each side of the Moon in turn. The Moon has a far side, though, which is never seen from Earth. To show children this, you can pick up a tennis ball and a ping-pong ball and act it out.

Another way would be to access the Moon's orbit section in this fine piece of software, designed to support the teaching of the QCA primary science scheme of work for Year 5. There are five interactive sections, four of which employ animations to help children understand day and night, and the Moon's and Earth's orbits.

How Big and How Far? is a simple screen view which compares the relative sizes of the "football" Sun to the "dried pea" Earth. There are no fancy movements, but it makes the point well. The Day and Night interactive animates the Earth's rotation to show it illuminated by the Sun, so half is in the light and half in darkness. There is also an option to view the Sun appearing to move across the sky as the Earth rotates, and the resulting length of the shadow created by a stick in the ground.

The Moon's orbit is shown as a side view and a plan view (from the front) - brilliant for showing how it moves in 3D. If you've ever tried explaining this, you'll know how difficult it can be, so these interactive resources come in very handy.

The CD-Rom shows the Moon orbiting the Earth in a 28-day cycle; the Earth is shown rotating once every day, and the visible shape of the Moon can be seen changing over 28 days.

The animations are simple but effective: an ideal teaching and learning tool for use on an interactive whiteboard. You can pause the action at any time if you need to stop and think or make a point

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