Eclipse Interactive

McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Model , Simulation , Interactive Simulation
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



In Eclipse Interactive, students investigate both lunar and solar eclipses by manipulating up to three independent variables: Moon's tilt from orbit, Earth-Moon distance and size of the Moon. By viewing the effects of changes to these variables, students will be able to construct explanations for solar and lunar eclipses.The model includes both top and side views of the Earth-Moon system during the Moon's revolution. In addition, students can toggle to show outlines of the Earth and Moon. Teachers should note that the simulation has been designed as a single screen model that automatically moves between solar and lunar eclipses without any indication of time. As a result, younger students may become confused and will need to be reminded about the duration of lunar months. The simulation includes bare-bones introductory content, how-to instructions, the interactive model itself, related exercises, and solutions to the exercises. One minor inconvenience is the lack of a reset button.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • High School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS1-1 Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.

Clarification Statement: Examples of models can be physical, graphical, or conceptual.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Eclipse Interactive addresses the part of MS-ESS1-1 that deals with using models to describe and explain solar and lunar eclipses. It does not provide any opportunity for students to develop their own model. In this simulation, users investigate how three variables (orbit tilt, Earth-Moon distance and size of Moon) affect the occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses. It should be noted that the model defaults to conditions that result in eclipses, so manipulation of these variables will negatively affect the occurrences of these eclipses. After conducting several trials for each of the variables, students can analyze their findings and then construct an explanation for both solar and lunar eclipses. In order to help students organize their observations, teachers might consider creating tables for recording information or encourage students to use their journals.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Eclipse Interactive allows students the opportunity to investigate factors that lead to the occurrence of both solar and lunar eclipses. In this simulation, students are allowed to manipulate three variables: Moon's tilt from orbit, Moon size and Earth-Moon distance. By recording, citing and analyzing the information obtained from changing these variables, students will more easily construct an explanation for eclipses. Middle school students may need moderate to extensive guidance when using this model. In order to ensure their success, students should review the "How To" sections carefully. Teachers may find it useful to break the class into three groups with each group concentrating on only one of the variables and its effect on eclipses. Subsequently, the groups can be jigsawed to share their discoveries. Once this process is complete, students can begin constructing explanations to describe the occurrence of eclipses. It should be noted that, in this simulation, the emphasis is on investigating and constructing explanations, not on model creation.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This simulation deals with the first concept of the Disciplinary Core Idea: explaining solar and lunar eclipses. In order to check for understanding, teachers may wish to create several thought questions that students would answer in their journals. For example, teachers may ask students to explain the effect of each individual variable on eclipses. For additional inspiration, teachers may want to check the "Exercises" section of the model and plan questions accordingly.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This simulation is an excellent vehicle for studying how three different variables interact to affect the occurrence of eclipses. Although students can manipulate these variables simultaneously, teachers should ensure that students only manipulate one variable at a time. This methodology mirrors how real scientists work and allows students to fully comprehend the importance of each variable change. Once students fully understand the "how" of eclipses, teachers may wish to have students predict the "when" of eclipses using modeling and/or explanation.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Eclipse Interactive is strongly aligned to the Cross Cutting Concept of cause and effect. In this simulation, students can manipulate up to three variables and then observe the effects of these changes on the occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses. Students can then use their observations to explain these occurrences. The weakness of this simulation lies in the Practices dimension. Students are not developing a model to explain eclipses; rather, they are manipulating variables in a preexisting model to explain phenomena. As its name implies, this interactive website only deals with the eclipse portion of the Disciplinary Core Idea.

  • Instructional Supports: Eclipse Interactive provides students with an engaging scenario in order to explain both solar and lunar eclipses. Background material uses grade-appropriate scientific information and vocabulary. This site does not provide opportunities for students to report out their findings; however, teachers could design writing prompts in order for students to present their ideas. Ideas for differentiation are not included.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The module lacks both embedded formative assessments and aligned rubrics. It does provide exercises for students to complete; however, solutions to these problems are readily accessible on the adjoining tab and, thus, are of limited value for assessment purposes. Several multiple choice questions are included; however, these questions are too high level for middle school students.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The simulation allows users to manipulate three variables that play a role in the occurrence of eclipses: tilt from orbit of the Moon, Earth-Moon distance and size of the Moon. Students will need to be reminded that in a scientific investigation only one variable should be changed at a time. Students who attempt to change more than one will not be able to evaluate the role of each individual variable on the occurrence of eclipses.