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How to make a Lunar Eclipse in a Shoebox

24/09/2015

Very early Monday morning, if we remember to set and alarm, if it’s not too cloudy and if it’s not too warm and cosy in bed, H and I are going to get up to see the lunar eclipse.  That’s quite a lot of ifs but it is in the wee small hours of a Monday morning.  The last time we watched a lunar eclipse Kitty was just a teeny tiny baby, asleep upstairs in her grandparents’ house while we wrapped up in every layer possible and crunched out over the snowy garden to see it but I remember how beautiful it was and how it impressed on me the very vastness of the universe, that we were a part of that shadow passing over the moon.

We’ve been talking about it with Kitty and Elma, showing them the pictures from last time and trying to explain how it all works.  Kitty has been exploring the concept of her shadow at school (I know this because there is a picture of her class playing shadow games on the school website) which might be connected to the eclipse, or just a really lovely coincidence, and we decided to take that and run with it for our first challenge as part of the Staedtler Try-it Tribe.  So with a little help from a multipack of Kids’ Fimo and Space themed moulds and the torch setting on my phone, let me show you…

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

…how to explain the Lunar eclipse with a shoe box!

You will need:

Kids’ FIMO in blue, green, white and black (plus red and yellow if you also want stars, space rocks, other planets and aliens)
FIMO Alien moulds
1 Shoebox
Black/dark blue paint
Sharp knife
Grey cotton/invisible thread/tiger tail (it’s a very thin covered wire used in jewellery making)
Two straws
4 x 10mm jump rings
2 x 4mm split rings
Gold and Silver Staedtler pens
A torch, or the willingness to be parted with your phone for a little while.

Method:

  1. Paint the shoebox in your dark paint, inside and out and set it to dry.  Our shoebox had an integral lid which Elma painted up in all the reds and pinks she could find for a shimmery Martian landscape effect but that’s optional.
    Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox
  2. Break out the FIMO! I hadn’t played with this in years and the girls loved it.  They had a lot of fun just playing with it and making their own shapes, several of which we baked, and then we moved on to the moulds to make some planets and aliens.  By a fair amount of trial and error we found that (a) the colour comes off on your hands, don’t change colour without washing your hands first unless you’re after a marble effect; (b) the FIMO sticks in the moulds unless you sprinkle them with water first – using a sippy cup and a baby who really likes turning his cup upside down and watering the table is perfect; and (c) they all need a little tidying up after they come out of the moulds, especially the stars.  We found that we had our best successes with Pip sprinkling water, the girls moulding and H and I popping them out with the assistance of a couple of palette knives and a craft knife.  We made a collection of stars, planets and aliens in rainbow swirly colours.
  3. Use the planet mould to make a blue-green planet (the earth) and a while planet with black craters (the moon).  When you place them on the baking sheet use a straw to make threading holes at the top.
  4. Bake all the FIMO and leave to cool.
  5. Take your shoebox, turn it onto one of the long sides and mark two lines, 1 inch from either of the top.
  6. Starting and stopping 1 inch before the end of the box, cut through the box along those lines using a sharp knife.  This is the bit where we banished the girls to the other end of the room just in case.
  7. Decorate the inside and outside of the box with gold and silver stars (Kitty loved this bit – any excuse to play with the gold and silver pens!), and stick FIMO stars  to the inside back ‘wall’ of the box.
  8. Add a stealth alien (optional)
    Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox
  9. Thread a split ring onto a jump ring and thread the jump ring through the hole in the Earth.  Close the jump ring with your fingers or jewellery pliers and thread the second jump ring onto the split ring.
    Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox
  10. Repeat for the Moon.
  11. Tie a length of grey cotton/invisible thread/tiger tail to the top jump ring on the Moon, thread it through the back slit in the top of your shoebox and tie it around the middle of a straw.
    Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox
  12. Repeat with the Earth, but thread it through the front slot and tie off around a straw.  You might have to fiddle with the lengths of the strings but you want to have them dangling at roughly the same length.  Don’t tie them off finally until you’ve added a light source and checked it works.

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

You can play around with the Moon and the Earth, sliding them back and forward to show how the Earth goes around the Sun and the Moon travels its own path around the Earth, and then comes the really fun part, time for lights out.

We were playing with ours in the garden but we brought it in on a dingy evening, turned our main lights out and left if lit by the light from the torch on my phone.  The phone works really well because it’s a very strong beam of light (it’s the flash function for the camera) but also quite narrow so it produces some very defined shadows.

Kitty and I talked about how the bit of the Earth that had light was in the day and the back was in the night, we slid the Moon out to talk about how it doesn’t glow itself but reflects the light from the sun and how a Duplo person stuck on the back of the Earth would see it in the sky as bright and shiny.  I was only really trying to show her how the eclipse will work (and I think it’s pretty good for that) but the conversation spiralled off into all sorts of other questions to do with the moon and space and lots of playing and experimenting with different set ups.

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

Partial eclipse

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

Total eclipse

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

Space for the Butterflies - a Lunar Eclipse in a shoebox

Playtime!

Space for the Butterflies - how to make a Lunar Eclipse in a Shoebox

Let me know if you give it a go!

 

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  • Preeta Samarasan 24/09/2015 at 5:21 pm

    Amazing! I am going to try to give it a go, although I’m not very crafty and am a little overwhelmed by the many steps. I think my girls would love it, though!

    • Carie 24/09/2015 at 9:21 pm

      The short version – sans chat about aliens and FIMO – get a box, paint it black, cut two slits in one long side and suspend a disc from each slit – it’s really a piece of cake so go for it!

  • Dee 24/09/2015 at 5:26 pm

    Wow! What a fabulous idea. I love it!

    • Carie 24/09/2015 at 9:20 pm

      Thank you – it was one of those ideas that turned out better than I could ever have imagined!

  • sally 27/09/2015 at 12:48 am

    Very clever, and love the stealth alien too!

    • Carie 27/09/2015 at 3:01 pm

      he’s my favourite!!

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