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Moon Landing 50: “One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind”

April 07, 2020 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

The moon has sparked our imagination since the beginning of time, inspiring poets, philosophers, scientists, explorers and engineers to meditate on and study it in detail. This month, Helbling Readers Blog goes on a trip to the Moon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing on 20th July 1969. Although the actual mission was carried out by three American astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins, we often refer to the first Moon landing as an achievement for humankind. This idea is reinforced by Neil Armstrong’s famous words, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” (Armstrong and Aldrin actually walked on the moon while Michael Collins waited for them in the spacecraft orbiting the Moon.)

We believe that the Moon and this landmark anniversary can inspire adventurous lessons in the language classroom, and motivate students to carry out small research projects and start reading stories. In this first part of four blog articles, we have collected some resources, books and films to that you can use in class throughout the next year.

Illustration by Vanessa Lovegrove from Paul learns to plan, written by Herbert Puchta and Gavin Biggs for The Thinking Train series. © Helbling Languages


Basic Moon vocabulary

Let’s begin with the origin of the word. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word comes from the Old English mōna, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch maan and German Mond, also to month, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin mensis and Greek mēn ‘month’, and also Latin metiri ‘to measure’ (the moon being used to measure time).

Here are some other important words and phrases related to the moon.

  • lunar
  • eclipse
  • lunar landscape
  • orbit
  • satellite / natural satellite
  • solar system
  • galaxy
  • moonwalker
  • new moon
  • full moon
  • blue moon
  • tide

For more advanced learners, you can introduce words such as:

  • celestial object
  • heavenly body
  • to wax/to wane

Interestingly the term lunatic meaning mad person, orginally meant someone who suffered from temporary insanity depending on the changes of the moon (from the Latin, luna) ,and is now used to describe someone of unsound mind. Lunatic can also be used as an adjective.

Fun phrases

Understanding the origin of the world can lead students to the understanding of phrases related to the moon, such as ‘many moons ago’ and ‘once in a blue moon’.

Other fun expressions with the ‘moon’ are ‘over the moon’ and ‘wish for the moon’.

Learning about the Moon

The Moon provides great research project materials for CLIL lessons. Students interested in Physics, Biology and Chemistry can focus on a scientific aspect, others who are interested in engineering can find information about spacecrafts. Students who are more interested in History, Art, Film, Music and Literature can focus on the historical aspects of Moon exploration and its artistic representations. It is also a good idea to discuss with students the difference between our Moon and the many other (over 190!) moons in our solar system.

Study the NASA website

Invite students to study the rich materials on the NASA Moon webpage. If you scroll down on this page, you will find a short text written in child-friendly language for young learners, which you can use for elementary level learners.

As a general introduction, ask students to study the webpage and find answers to the following questions.

  1. How big is the Moon?
  2. What is its sized compared to the Earth?
  3. How far is it from the Earth right now? Remember, it keeps changing!
  4. Why do we see only one side of the Moon?
  5. Can we breathe on the Moon?
  6. If we travel to the Moon, will we see the footprints of the moonwalkers?
  7. How many human visitors have been to the Moon?
  8. How many people have walked on the Moon?
  9. How many robots have been sent to the Moon?
  10. How was the Moon formed?
  11. How does the Moon help Earth to become more liveable?
  12. How does the Moon create a rhythm on Earth?

Then, ask the students to find more information on the webpage and present their own findings.

The Moon in literature

Three classics

The Moon is a constant source of inspiration for scientists and engineers but also for dreamers, poets, writers and explorers. One of the first stories about the Moon was written in the 2nd century by Lucian, and we can read about it also in Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem L’Orlando Furioso (1516) by Dante. Somnium, or ‘The Dream’ (1634) written by Kepler is often referred to as one of the first works of science-fiction.

Three early 20th-century classics

Turning to the 20th century, we can find many literary works which feature the Moon, for example The First Man in the Moon (1901) by H.G. Wells, Doctor Dolittle in the Moon (1928) by Hugh Lofting, and Roverandom (1925) by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Three children’s books

We have selected three children’s books which explore the Moon in some way. There are dozens of other magical stories which take us to the Moon, and we are sure that there are many others written in different languages. Goodnight Moon (1947) is a classic written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd. The Moon Jumpers (1959) was written by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Finally, The Way Back Home (2008) is a charming story by author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers.

The Moon and the Moon landing in films

We also recommend some excellent films about the Moon and the Moon landing. Just to relax, or as a source for classroom activities, we recommend them for teachers and students alike.

The Moon in songs

The Moon has been the subject of and inspiration for numerous songs. Ask your students to create a Moon-themed playlist on their favourite music streaming site. You can play the songs in class or use them as background music for other tasks throughout the year

For more ideas and resources, visit one of our previous posts about the Moon exploration:

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