Around and Round: Lunar Phases, Planetary Orbits, and Seasons, Tides Resources

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Salmon Cone mountain in Big Sur, California

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Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI)


There are a variety of details in understanding tides. For elementary students, simply understanding what tides are and their frequency is appropriate (each day typically has two high tides and two low tides). Tying this to a model of gravity and the Moon’s motion and phases to understand tides really shouldn’t be done until the students are at least in 8th grade — this requires a detailed understanding of the relationship between the Sun, Earth, and Moon and applying the concept of gravity. Each of these concepts has a variety of possible misconceptions. Students with less experience with the oceans and deltas are likely to confuse simple waves or even tsunamis with tides.  Students are very likely to also have misconceptions about gravity and the Moon’s phases.

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