A sky full of Oreos: EES students use cookies to learn moon phases

East Elementary School students use Oreo cookies to learn the phases of the moon as part of a recent science lesson. (Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Students at East Elementary School in Cullman had a creative — and delicious — lesson recently while learning the phases of the moon in their science curriculum. 
Sixth graders spent a few days learning about moon phases, then completed a lab modeling the moon phases while learning how to determine the correct phase based on their lab results and studies. Then, they used Oreos to simulate the different phases, by pulling the cookies apart and scraping off the cream to make them match the specific phase step by step. 
“Students were given Oreos, a spoon and a sheet that had the sun, Earth and a spot for each moon phase,” East Elementary School sixth-grade science teacher Beth Collins said. “They had to create each moon phase by removing just the right amount of Oreo icing, making sure the ‘light’ faced the correct direction and labeling the phases correctly, all from memory.  Once they felt they had it correct, they raised their hand and I either gave them the go-ahead to eat the Oreos or told them to keep working on it.” 
Collins said students were intrigued by the activity, though it also put a bit of pressure on them to get all those phases right if they wanted to enjoy the fruits (cookies?) of their labors. 
“The students were super excited, and nervous, since to eat the Oreos you had to do it correctly,” she said. “After completing the challenge, some of the students combined all the icing into one cookie or some just ate the cookies and no icing.” 
The Oreo lesson allowed students to learn, have fun and feel accomplished all in one activity.  
“I was very proud of the students and their motivation to get it correct and eat the Oreos,” Collins said. “Students love participating in hands-on learning and fortunately, we do a lot of that in my science class. However, this activity made the students show what they knew independently without relying on their classmates.” 
As for where they got all those cookies? Collins sent home a sign-up sheet, and parents responded in under an hour, committing to send 30 packs of Oreos so the activity would be a success. 
“It was a fun way to end the week and help prepare the students for the next week of learning about eclipses, which builds in a big way off of moon phases,” she added.