Moon and Tides

The Moon and Tides

Background Info

It is well known that the moon, the earth, and the sun affect ocean tides.  Along the west coast of the United States we experience 4 different tides per day: 2 highs and 2 lows.  When the moon, the earth, and the sun are in a line Spring Tides are formed.  During these tides you may observe higher and lower than normal tides.  In other words, there will be very high tides and very low tides.  When the moon, the earth, and sun are at right angles to each other Neap Tides are formed.  During these tides you will not be able to observe a great deal of difference in the heights of the high and low tides.

Created by: Kristal Pride
Saddleback Valley Unified School District


At the conclusion of this assignment you will be able to:

1.  Label and identify different phases of the  moon
2.  Name different kinds of tides
3.  Create a graph using your choice of tide data
4.  Predict the moon phases associated with your graph.


1.  Computer with internet access
2.  Activity sheet


Follow the instructions below to complete the assignment.  BE SURE TO READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE GOING TO ANY LINK.  Record your data on the activity sheet.


1.  Fill in the definitions for Spring Tides and Neap Tides on your activity sheet.
2.  Use the moon definitions page to find the definition for Waning, Waxing and Gibbous.  Using another resource or your prior knowledge, define Crescent. Observe what each phase of the moon is called and what it looks like.  Record this information on your activity sheet.  The "Full Moon" and "New Moon" phases are labeled and drawn for you.


3.  First check the current moon phase.  Then go to the moon phases interactive  web site and experiment with different dates.  Record one of the dates you chose and draw and label the moon phase that occurred.


4.  Now that you have mastered the moon's phases you can explore how they affect the ocean tides.  First, select a region to study from the tidal region page.  Record the area you chose on your activity sheet.  Refer to your activity sheet for the next instructions.
5. Notice that your graph resembles a horizontal "hourglass" shape.  Using a pen, pencil, or highlighter, trace the "hourglass shape."  Starting on the left side of the graph trace the high tides all the way to the end.  Repeat this step with low tides.
6.  Review the definitions for Spring Tides and Neap Tides.  Label the appropriate sections of the graph with the name of the tide.  Now, draw a picture of the moon phase or phases associated with those tides.


7.  Choose another region and follow the previous directions.  Once you have your graph, compare the new high and low tides with your first graph.  Are the curves in the same location?  Why or Why not?  (Hint: it is not simply because you chose a new region!)

Cool Sites

Check out a view of the earth from the moon -Navigate around
Astronomy and Space Links: Check the moon page

A Few Internet Resources:


Created August 21, 1999
Last Revised February 6, 2000

Teacher Notes

Science Content Standards:

S.C.O.R.E. Lessons Standards Search by Grade and Subject
S.C.O.R.E.  Standards and Framework
California Content Standards Grades K-12
California Content Standards Grades K-12 - Science -PDF Format

Grade 6: Investigation and Experimentation (7a, b, c, e, g, h)
Grade 7: Investigation and Experimentation (7a, b, c, e)
Grade 8: Investigation and Experimentation (9a, b, e,)
Grade 9: Investigation and Experimentation (1a, c, d, i,)


1.  This is an introductory activity to the phases of the moon and the affect of the moon on tides.  For the younger grades: it would be helpful for students to have some prior knowledge on the phases of the moon. 

2.  Most students will require assistance with drawing the phases of the moon.  After going to moon definitions, show students that they can view the different phases of the moon by advancing the animation to the numerical quantity required to see the phase they want.  I indicated on the Student Page that the "Full Moon" and "New Moon" phases were labeled and drawn for them.  They are labeled, however, I lacked the expertise to draw them!  Sorry!!!

3. Allow students some time to explore the moon phases interactive.

4.  Students should choose a region to study from tidal region.

5.  Students will need to change some of the prediction options: number of lines (30), length of time (4 weeks) and then click "Make New Prediction."  After observing the table, students will change another prediction option: display type (graphic plot), pixels (640 by 320).

6.  Students should notice a horizontal "hour glass" shape to the graph.  Have them print it out if necessary and highlight the shape of the "hourglass."  The rounded portions of the "hourglass" indicate the highest and lowest tides of the month.  The part in between are the days in the month when the difference between high and low tide is minimal.  Occasionally, because of the region chosen and the moon phases, students will not see an hour glass shape.  Rather, students will observe a graph that has one rounded portion in the middle that tapers on either side of it.  The interpretation is the same. 

7.  Guide students to the realization that during the "rounded part of the hourglass" the highest and lowest tides occur.  What is the name for these types of tides?  During the flattened out time of the month there is very little difference between high and low tides.  What is the name for these types of tides? 

8.  Finally, guide students to realize what moon phases can be associated with those types of tides.


Data collection & interpretation, Predicting, & Graphing
Computer literacy
Effective use of Internet resources


Work sheet & graph (Sample Student Activity Sheet available at moon sheet)


1.  Students can select another region of the world.  They should compare the new ocean tides with their original data to determine differences in tides and moon position. 

2.  Students can graph data points by hand in order to predict the exact days of the Spring and Neap tides. Then they can further predict the precise days of the Full, New, and Quarter phases of the moon.
By using moon phases interactive or another site students can verify their predictions.

3.  Students can also visit and read some poetry about the moon and its phases.  Students may wish to write their own poetry or short story about the moon.