Lunar and Planetary Institute


Drawing Conclusions: How Constellations Got Their Names


Constellation is an ancient word that comes from the Latin language. "Con" means "with" and "stella" means "star." So a constellation is a picture made "with stars."Children illustrate why we have constellation as told through the Native American story, “Why Coyote Howls: A Star Story” and the accompanying science story. Illustration detail will depend on the age of the children.

The Activity

Ask the children to think about the stories they just heard.

  • What did the night sky look like before the animals spoke with the Creator?
  • What did the Creator offer the animals?
  • What did the animals do?
  • Why are some star pictures “unfinished?”
  • Why was Coyote the only animal that did not make a picture?

Invite them to illustrate the story of why we have constellations — or one aspect of the story. Older children can work individually or in groups to illustrate the science story. Illustration detail will depend on the age of the children.


Invite the children to create and illustrate their "own" story of why we have constellations, or draw their own constellation.

Expand the types of materials available to include paint, tissue paper, glue, scissors, etc., so the children can make mosaics, mobiles, or sculptures to illustrate the stories or make constellations.

Ages 5 and up

How Long?
30 minutes or longer

What's Needed?

• Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
• Paper or poster board

Connections to the
National Science Standard(s)

Standards B&D (grades K–4): Understand and communicate that the positions of objects in the sky, such as stars, can be described by locating them relative to another object or the background.