The surface of the moon was first examined via telescope hundreds of years ago. The surface of the Earth shifts while the surface of the moon does not appear to change; it has no atmosphere and no wind, rain or moving water to alter the landscape. The moon is a frequent topic of scientific discussion, and making a model of the moon's surface is an interesting, engaging science project for students in middle and high school.
Fill a paper bowl with plaster of Paris. The hardened plaster will not be removed from the bowl, so be sure to use a bowl that you will not need in the future. Add water to the plaster of Paris slowly, stirring with a craft stick until it reaches approximately the consistency of a thick batter. Test the mixture by piercing it with the craft stick; it should be thick enough to hold its shape when pierced.
Lay down newspaper to protect your workspace and set the bowl of plaster down in the centre.
Use your fingers or a foam brush to coat a rock the approximate size of a golf ball in a thick layer of petroleum jelly. Do this over the newspaper to prevent the petroleum jelly from getting on any other surfaces.
Stand above the bowl of plaster of Paris and, holding the rock at approximately the height of your chest, drop the rock into the plaster mixture.
Remove the rock from the plaster mixture carefully, taking care to disturb the imprint as little as possible.
Allow the plaster to sit until fully dry. The impression made from dropping the rock in Step 5 results in a model of an impact crater. The moon's surface features many impact craters, which are bowl-shaped and created from the impact of solid bodies.
Repeat Steps 1 through 7 using different bowls and rocks of various sizes to examine how the size of an object affects the size of the crater. The impact craters made from golf-ball size rocks and, for example, marble-size rocks will be different, and these differences can be examined by making several models of the moon's surface.
- Wear old clothing, or clothing set aside for arts and experiments, as this project can get messy.
- Avoid washing the plaster mixture down the drain because it can clog pipes.
- Chad Baker/NASA/Digital Vision/Getty Images