Students will identify the group of stars called the Big and Little Dipper and create a constellation of their own to share within a guessing game format.
Introduction (5 minutes)
- Ask students what they think of when they hear the words “North Star.” Guide the discussion to include the use of a star “landmark” for navigation.
- Explain that this star’s name is Polaris and is part of a star group called the Little Dipper in North America.
- Explain that today we’ll make our own constellations, which are groups of stars that form pictures if we connect the dots.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling (10 minutes)
- Using The Night Sky – Constellations worksheet as a guide, draw the Big Dipper on the board.
- Explain that this group of stars, part of the Ursa Major, or Big Bear, constellation looks a bit like a drinking ladle. Add that this term may have come from Africa, where it was sometimes seen as a drinking gourd. Runaway slaves would follow the so-called drinking gourd to the North to find freedom.
- Point to the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper bowl on the worksheet and identify them as “Pointer Stars.” Explain that a line drawn between them points to Polaris, the bright star at the end of the ladle of the Little Dipper. Point out that Polaris is always there in the northern hemisphere and it marks the North Celestial Pole.
- Display Catching the Light showing the Big and Little Dipper picture. Draw a line with a marker or your finger from the two pointer starts at the outer end of the bowl of the Big Dipper up to Polaris at the end of the Little Dipper handle.
Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling (5 minutes)
- Distribute The Night Sky – Constellations worksheet and read aloud the directions.
- Rotate around the room, assuring that all students are completing the connect-the-stars activity.
Independent Working Time (15 minutes)
- Announce the Constellation Guessing Game.
- Direct the students to think of an object to create a constellation around.
- Distribute blue and white construction paper and direct students to draw an outline of the chosen object in pencil on the blue construction paper.
- Distribute markers and direct students to choose and mark at least six points on the penciled outline to be stars of the constellation.
- When students are finished with markers, direct them to erase the pencil outline and use the pencil tip to poke holes through the marker dots on the blue construction paper.
- Distribute glue or glue sticks and direct students to glue the blue construction paper to the white one.
- Each student will trade completed and pasted constellation paper with a partner, who will guess what the object is.
- Partners will connect the star dots of partner’s constellation and return it to the owner, who will each write a constellation title and verify if the partner guessed correctly or not.
- Enrichment: Challenge students to create an additional constellation that points to another one, much like the outer stars of the Big Dipper bowl pointed to Polaris on the Little Dipper ladle.
- Support: Pair students who need extra help with a partner who can assist.
Related Books and/or Media
- BOOK: The Sky Observer’s Guide by R. Newton Mayall, Margaret Mayall, and Jerome Wyckoff
Assessment (5 minutes)
- Students stand and share constellations and say whether or not their partner guessed it correctly.
- Collect worksheets and constellations to assign percentage grades to assess understanding of constellations.
Review and Closing (5 minutes)
- Thumbs up to indicate yes, and down to indicate no to answer to the question: Do I know how to find Polaris?
- Ask a thumbs up person to explain or demonstrate how to find Polaris.