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Why Does the Moon Shine?

Have you ever been asked or wondered why the moon shines? This simple demonstration will show children of all ages why the moon shines!  When demonstrating to a child, do not give away any answers…instead ask them questions and let them discover the reason why the moon shines.  This discovery gives them ownership and usually more excitement about learning.  I always try to remember it is all in the presentation and allowing them to discover the answers so they can take ownership of their learning.

You will need:


bike reflector


This experiment is done at night time. Point the flashlight at bicycle reflector and then turn it off.

Questions to ask:

What did you notice?

Is the reflector glowing?  (Ask when flashlight is on and off.)

Does the reflector give off light?

How are the moon and reflector the same?

For younger children ask specific questions such as what do you think the flashlight is supposed to be?  (The sun.)  What is the reflector in our activity? (The moon.)


The reflector only glows when the flashlight is on it.  The reflector, like the moon, does not give off light.  It reflects light  in different directions.  The moon only reflects light from the sun.  Without the sun, there would be no moonlight.

The moon revolves around the earth so sometimes we can see more of the “lit up” side and sometimes we can see less.  This all depends on where the moon is in it’s orbit and how much of the lit up side is facing us.

Cool discovery!

To extend this idea:

Younger children can draw a picture of the moon and if able to write…write a sentence or new fact about the moon.  Also, a perfect night to read “Goodnight Moon” by margeret wise Brown.

Before the experiment:

If you keep a science journal at home have your child or children write the question, “Why does the moon shine?” and then a hypothesis as to why they think the moon shines. If you prefer to discuss the guesses and then have them write down the results. sketching a picture with the journal entry will help the to remember the experiment when reviewing their journal.


Have children make a model of the Earth, sun and moon. A shoebox would work well for them to hang their models.  Or have them use dough to shape the Earth, moon and sun according to size. (Have them research size so they can have the proportion correct.)


Spread out some blankets or chairs on a clear night and just observe the moon. This may lead to more questions, observations and discovery.

Older Children can do more detailed research:

This simple experiment gives a glimpse into the reason as to why the moon shines, have your older kids research more about the moon.

For example, the moon is actually dark and the reflective coat cannot be seen up close.  They can look up about Albedo which is the measure of an object’s reflection of the Sun’s radiation.  There is much to learn and have the older children present their findings.  Allow them to be creative with their presentation.

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