Meet our Neighbour: the Moon!

:: Description ::

In this activity groups of visually impaired students and their sighted peers are invited to use daily basis items and recycled materials to build a tactile schematic image of a celestial object from our solar system. In a group activity, they are also encouraged to research about our celestial neighbour and its main characteristics.

This activity is planned for groups of children from 6 to 12 years old, and their educators gathered in groups of 3 to 5 children (for example 3 sighted children and two visually impaired). The activity can be implemented at three stages that can be done separately:

  • Research on the celestial object by the children prior to the activity;
  • Build the tactile image in a hand-on performed by the sighted children closely interacting with their visually impaired peers;
  • Tactile exploration of the final schematic image by visually impaired children.

Variations of the activity can also be conducted. For instance, promote activities for sighted children in which they learn and build the tactile images and then promote explanatory sessions to their visually impaired peers.

In all stances, it is strongly advised to stimulate interactions between sighted children and their visually impaired peers.

:: Materials ::

Tactile features present in the Moon and correspondent suggested textures:

  • Thick fabric;
  • Curved sequins;
  • Black and white prints of image (x2) and mold (x1). Click links to Download.

These materials are only suggestions; all textures can be replaced by low-cost local materials from each community that plans to implement “Meet our Neighbours!”.

:: The Scientist Explains ::

[General Information]


The Moon is the only natural satellite of the Earth. It orbits our planet in 27.3 days at a mean distance of 384,400 km. Its diameter of 3,474 km makes it the fifth largest satellite in the solar system.

It is thought that the Moon was formed at the same time as the Earth, 4.55 billion years ago, from the debris of a giant collision between the Earth and a Mars-size object.

The Moon is in on a synchronous orbit around the Earth, which means that it makes one turn around itself as its makes one turn around the Earth. So, it is always showing the same face to us. All we know about the “hidden” face of the Moon comes from photographs taken by astronauts or automatic probes that went around on the other side. There is no rising or setting of the Earth on the horizon of the Moon. If you were standing on the near side of the Moon, the Earth would appear immobile in the sky.

During its revolution around the Earth, the disk of the Moon is not always completely lit by the Sun. This variation in the appearance of the lunar disk is called the “phases of the Moon”, and is characterized by a well-known cycle.

The apparent diameter of the Moon as seen from Earth is almost exactly that of the Sun. This is why the Moon can sometimes completely mask the solar disk and produce total solar eclipses. Another important influence of the Moon on Earth is the phenomenon of tides which is due to its gravitational pull on the seas and oceans.

The Moon is the only celestial object that has been visited by human beings. This first occurred on July 21st, 1969 when two members of the Apollo 11 mission set foot on our satellite: they were Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin. As many as 12 astronauts walked the surface of the Moon between 1969 and 1972, and they returned 382 kg of lunar soil to be analysed on Earth.

[Tactile features]
[While you explore the tactile schematic image you can find: ]

Mountains and Mare
The visible surface of the Moon shows bright and dark areas. The bright areas are generally hills or mountains (materialized by thick fabric on the tactile image), while the dark ones are flat lands, called “mare” (materialized by soft fabric in relief on the tactile image). These low altitude areas were filled by lava during an ancient period of volcanic activity, around 3 billion years ago. Most of them were named by ancient astronomers after common phenomena encountered on terrestrial seas and oceans: Oceanus Procellarum (“Ocean of Storms”), Mare Imbrium (“Sea of Rains”), Mare Serenitatis (“Sea of Serenity”), Mare Tranquilitatis (“Sea of Tranquility”), etc.

The whole face of the Moon is dotted with craters, with diameters from a few meters to hundreds of kilometres. They are the result of impacts by asteroids, since the Moon does not have any atmosphere to prevent them from reaching the surface (a few of them are materialized by buttons on the tactile image: Plato and Aristoteles at the top, Aristarchus on the left, Copernicus near the centre, and Clavius at the bottom). Copernicus has a diameter of 93 km and is located in Mare Imbrium at the end of a chain of mountains called Apennins (materialized by the thick fabric on the tactile image).

:: Full Activity Description ::

Prior to the activity:

  • Gather the children in groups of 5 elements – visually impaired and non-visually impaired (ideally three non-visually impaired to 2 visually impaired);
  • Present one image per group;
  • Distribute materials accordingly;

During the activity:

  • Close supervision – follow each group and explain each of the tactile elements and their correspondence to the each object feature;
  • Understand the different needs of each group of students to promote interaction between the children during the building of the tactile image – visually impaired children need to be familiarized with the different materials involved;

Building the tactile image:

This is a step by step guide to the activity of building the tactile image of our Moon.

STEP 1: Print two copies of 03_Moon_Image.pdf in a regular black and white printer;

STEP 2: Cut the outer, round shape of the planet from one of the paper prints;

STEP 3: Place it on top of the thick fabric and with a pen draw the circle;

STEP 4: Cut the round shape again on the thick fabric;

STEP 5: Place abundant glue on the paper image;

STEP 6: Place the fabric on top of the glue;

STEP 7: Cut the inner section on 05_Moon_Image.pdf;

STEP 8: Place it on top of the thick fabric and with a pen outline this shape;

STEP 9: Cut the outlined shape;

STEP 10: Glue the fabric on top of the previously glued fabric, accordingly;

STEP 11: Cut a small section of the initial fabric and place glue it in place on top of the dashed line;

STEP 12: Glue the section on top of the previously glued thin fabric accordingly;

STEP 13: Place glue the round shaped section of the fabric and place the flat section of the sequin on top of the glue;

Wait for the image to dry before you start exploring.

:: Exploring the tactile image ::

There are several ways in which you can explore the scientific content of the tactile schematic images.

If you’re presenting the final tactile image to the children, first let them explore and feel the different textures. Questions will arise as the child explores and it is important to guide them. Read “The Scientist Explains” to understand the different features present in the Moon’s schematic tactile image.

(1) The Moon overall surface is represented by the round shaped thick fabric; (2) the second higher layer depicts Mare; (3) curved sequins depict cratered surface; (4) and mountains are depicted by the strip higher layer of thick fabric.