Activity: Star Master Viewer
60 minutes or longer
For each group of 3 or 4 children:
- 1 cardstock StarMaster Viewer template (black is best)
- 1 cardstock StarCards template (black is best)
- Phosphorescent — not glow-in-the-dark paint (about 1 teaspoon per group)
- Popsicle sticks (5 per group)
- Pen or pencil
- Access to a dark room
- Constellation images, names, and descriptions
Young stargazers create a StarMaster Viewer and StarCards to explore the constellations.
Before you start:
- Children should have a basic understanding of constellations as groupings of stars that appear to form a pattern or picture in the night sky.
- Get paper copies of different constellation images. For each image, include the constellation name and a brief description. One source is Enchanted Learning.
- Make copies of the StarCard and StarMaster Viewer templates, one per group, on cardstock.
- The children will be using paint in this activity, so you may wish to have them complete the construction of their StarMaster Viewer the day prior to doing the activity, to give the paint time to dry.
Provide the groups of children with the materials and tell them that they are going to make a StarMaster Viewer and StarCards. Have them construct the viewing tube by cutting along the designated line shown on the template, rolling the paper into a tube, and taping the tube securely.
Next the children will cut out the cardstock circles — the StarCards. They should cut on the outside edge of the larger circle and then tape one Popsicle stick to each circle, about 2 inches from the edge.
Distribute the constellation sheets, or have the children select their own constellations. Each group should choose a different constellation for each of their five StarCards.
On the back of each StarCard (the side with the Popsicle stick) ask the children to write the name of the selected constellation and a brief description in their own words.
On the front of each StarCard, instruct the children to very carefully reproduce the arrangement of the stars in the constellation by placing a pencil dot for each star. Invite the children to use a toothpick to place dots of phosphorescent paint over the pencil dots. (An alternative to using paint is to have the children poke a small hole in the cardstock for each main star in the constellation and use the viewer in the daylight. The Popsicle stick will have to be attached after the holes are punched.)
Let the paint dry overnight, or for several hours.
Once the paint is dry, invite the groups of children to reexamine their constellations and recall what they know about them.
- What is the star pattern for a particular constellation?
- Why are they named what they are named?
Turn out the lights. Have the children take turns sliding the StarCards into the StarMaster Viewer.
- Can each group identify their constellations?
- What if the constellation rotates in its position in the night sky?
Once each group has mastered their constellations, have the children trade with other groups to learn about other constellations. Challenge the different groups to a Constellation Contest! The group correctly identifying the greatest number of constellations wins.
Distribute an image of the night sky from your town, and invite the children to take it home to see how many of these constellations they can locate in the night sky! To find an image of your night sky, go to this Sky & Telescope site.
Connections to the National Science Standard(s)
Standard A & D (grades K–4): Understand that the stars have locations that can be observed and described.