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Spot the new crescent Moon

First suggested by Muslim Scout Fellowship
Try to spot the new crescent Moon and find out how the night sky is important in Islam.

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You’ll need

  • Weather appropriate clothing
  • Torch or phone
  • Drinks and snacks (optional)
  • Compass (optional)
  • Binoculars or telescope (optional)

Before you begin 

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely. 
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers. 

Planning an activity outside the meeting place 

  • When planning a visit away from the meeting place, make sure to let parents and carers know the day and time of your visit, as well as what they’ll need to bring and wear.  
  • Complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity.   
  • Always get consent forms for the activity.   
  • Have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.  
  • Make sure everyone knows about any dress code for your visit. 

Planning this activity 

  • Find out the dates when you’ll be able to try to spot the new crescent moon. This is the first time the Moon can be seen following a new moon. In the UK, and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, a crescent moon appears as a backwards 'C' shape. You could use a moon calendar, or you can find moon visibility maps for each month of the Islamic year, from the first month of Muharram to the final month of Dhul Hijjah. 
  • This is a great activity to do at the start of Ramadan - the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic year, during which Muslims fast. Why not link up with a predominantly Muslim Scout group through the Muslim Scout Fellowship (MSF)? Alternatively, if you’re in a Muslim Scout Fellowship group, why not invite another local group in your district to join you?  
  • Aim to go somewhere that has a clear view of the sunset, as the Moon will appear near here. You may want some binoculars or even a telescope. as getting that very first glimpse can be tricky. 
  • Decide if you’ll take any drinks and snacks to enjoy while you enjoy the night sky. Don’t forget to check for any allergies or dietary requirements. 
  • Watch this How to sight the New Crescent Moon video from the New Crescent Society for some handy hints. 

To watch in full screen, double click the video

 

Introduction: The importance of astronomy in Islam 

  1. Tell everyone that you’ll be learning Islam and its relation to the moon, specifically new crescent moons. Explain that one of the Scouts values is beliefs. Scouts always respect people’s beliefs, faiths and cultures, and everyone should be open to learn.  
  2. Explain that Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with over 1.8 billion followers, who are called Muslims. It’s also the second largest religion in the UK.  
  3. Tell everyone that Muslims believe there is one true God, who’s called Allah (the Arabic word for God). Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last prophet sent by Allah, with Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus being some of the previous prophets. 
  4. Explain that there are five pillars of Islam: the declaration of faith (Shahadah), praying five times a day (Salat), giving money to charity (Zakat), fasting (Sawm) and pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). The five pillars of Islam provide a framework for a Muslim’s whole life – it’s about putting their faith first, not trying to fit their faith around the rest of their life.
  5. Talk about how the sky is important in Islam.
    • The Sun determines prayer times, the stars can be used to find the Qibla (the direction of Mecca, which Muslims pray to), and the Moon is used to work out the Islamic calendar.
    • In the Islamic calendar, a month begins with the sighting of the new crescent Moon. One of these months is Ramadan.
    • Muslims believe that Allah created the moon, sun and the skies, and that they should take time to reflect on the beauty of God's creation.
    • Muslims can perform voluntary prayers called ‘Qiyam al-Layl’ in the evening, which literally translates to ‘standing during the night'.

Spotting the new crescent Moon 

  1. Find somewhere with a clear view of the sunset, as the Moon will appear near here. 
  2. Mark the exact point that the sun sets. 
  3. Wait for it to get dark – it’ll take about half an hour, so have another activity planned in the meantime. 
  4. Keep an eye out for the new crescent Moon. If it’s visible, it’ll usually appear no more than 25 degrees to the left of the sunset (if you don’t have a compass handy, that’s about one hand span). 
  5. Everyone should stay together and use torches to light the way if they needed. 
  6. If you don’t spot it, people can try again the following evening.  

Reflection

This activity is an opportunity to explore faith and beliefs, as well as to feel connected to our universe. It’s a great chance for some spiritual reflection or mindfulness.  

Why might it be useful to understand the nights sky? For thousands of years, humans have used the night sky to mark time, seasons and to navigate.  

How did it feel to spend time exploring the nights sky? What does it make you think of?  It can remind everyone that our world is amazing and that our planet is connected to the rest of the universe. 

What do the skies mean to you? How do they link to your faith, beliefs, values, mindfulness, spirituality or sense of self? Can you think of any other links between people’s faith and beliefs and astronomy? 

Safety

All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Visits away from your meeting place

Complete a thorough risk assessment and include hazards, such as roads, woodland, plants, animals, and bodies of water (for example, rivers, ponds, lakes, and seas). You’ll probably need more adult helpers than usual. Your risk assessment should include how many adults you need. The young people to adult ratios are a minimum requirement. When you do your risk assessment, you might decide that you need more adults than the ratio specifies. Think about extra equipment that you may need to take with you, such as high visibility clothing, a first aid kit, water, and waterproofs. Throughout the activity, watch out for changes in the weather and do regular headcounts. 

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

  • Try to spot other things in the night sky. Can you find any stars, constellations or planets? Get some tips in our Eyes to the skies activity 
  • You could use binoculars or a telescope for a better view of the night sky. 
  • Make sure the location and route you plan is accessible for all members of your group. For example, by avoiding steps or including places to rest. You could visit the area before the session and remove any large or obvious obstacles. The best way to know if the site is suitable for the needs of your group is to visit beforehand. If you’re unable to visit, ask the land manager any questions well in advance.
  • This activity can be done sitting or standing – whichever way works best for everyone.
  • Some people can be sensitive to light. They could wear sunglasses during this activity, such as at sunset.
  • Whatever your activity or event, it's important to remember that most Scouts activities in the UK will be attended by people with a range of faiths, beliefs and attitudes, including those with no faith. Be aware that someone from a faith background may have experienced discrimination or bullying in other areas of their life. Therefore, it’s ever more important that Scouts creates a positive, supportive environment which actively celebrates difference. Be vigilant for signs of faith and belief-based bullying or discrimination, as this shouldn’t be tolerated. You should include a zero-tolerance policy to faith and belief-based bullying or discrimination within your Section or Group rules.
  • If you can’t get out stargazing, the Royal Observatory and the New Crescent Society usually run a live online broadcast, so you can try to sight the new crescent moon marking the start of Ramadan. 
  • If anyone in your group has a fear or phobia, such as the dark, you may need to adapt this activity. Speak to the young person, along with their parents and carers, first to check what they’d need to be able to take part. You may need to remove some objects or adapt the plans to give them extra reassurance. Make sure you look out for these individuals and provide a safe and calm space for them to process their emotions. Always follow the Yellow Card. Let everyone know about the session beforehand to give people a chance to prepare or talk about it. This could be especially useful for anyone who’s less confident or may be worried about it. 
  • If you’re taking snacks or drinks, remember to check for allergies, eating problems or dietary requirements, then adapt and adjust the recipe as needed. This may include making sure there’s no cross-contamination during food preparation, too. Check if there are any items of food (or packaging) that people can’t touch or be near to, or if there are items that people might not be comfortable using in the activity.
  • Some people may not like certain food textures or tastes and that’s OK. Try to find an alternative for them or ask people to bring their own snacks and drinks. No-one should be made to have or try foods or drinks if they’re not happy, comfortable or don’t want to.
  • Be conscious about who may be fasting when running this activity – you may want to plan it for when everyone can get involved.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

  • Celebrate Iftar under the stars and learn more about Islam during Ramadan.  
  • Mystic biscuit moons is a great (and tasty) activity if you want to remind people of the different phases of the Moon before you head out to spot the new crescent Moon. The new crescent moon falls in the 'waxing crescent' phase, where the Moon appears to be growing in size. 
  • Make sure everyone has the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. 
  • Everyone can be involved in planning your adventure, and deciding where to visit.