For the activity ‘Make a Star Lantern’, copy the constellations from the worksheet onto various colours of A3 card. Provide lights for the lanterns or ask the students to bring their own.
Image: This ground-based photo shows a wide angle view of the constellation Corvus and part of contellation Hydra. Credit: NASA, ESA, Z. Levay (STScI) and A. Fujii
Activity 1: What constellations do you recognise?
Sit in a circle with the students. Ask the students if they know what stars are.
Explain that you can see the stars best at night. Stars give light but during the day, the Sun, our star, gives so much light that we cannot see the others.
Place the drawings of the constellations on the worksheet in the middle of the circle. From top to bottom the constellations shown are: Leo (lion), Pisces (a pair of fish), and Scorpio (scorpion).
Encourage the students to describe what figures they can see in the stars. Explain that we call these figures constellations.
Look at each constellation and describe what it is supposed to look like and what it is called. Explain that long ago, people thought this was what the constellations looked like if you joined up the stars.
Activity 2: Make a star lantern
Give each child a sheet of A3 card with a copied constellation, an embroidery needle and a thick layer of newspaper.
Ask the students to prick holes in the points of the star sign, using the layers of newspaper as a pad under the card. Encourage them to prick big holes, or the light won't shine through them clearly.
Roll the card to form a cylinder and staple the edges together.
Make two holes at the top and tie a piece of string across.
Hang the lantern on the stick and use a piece of string to hang the lamp inside the lantern. The lanterns are ready.
Tip: Encourage the children to make small balls of crepe paper. They can paste these onto their lantern, but make sure they don’t cover the holes. When the children have finished decorating the card, put the lanterns aside to dry. You can paste coloured tissue paper on the inside of the lantern for a nice effect.
Activity 3: Let the stars shine
Turn off the lights and/or close the blinds in the classroom.
Ask the students to switch on their lantern lights.
Ask them what they can see on their lantern.
Explain that the spots of light on their lantern form a constellation. The lights are the stars.
Optional: Take and print a photograph of each child with their lantern. Can you recognise the constellations on the photographs? Compare the constellation with a real picture of the sky.
You can show pictures of other famous and bright constellations.
Explain that we cannot always see the same constellations; some are not visible during the whole year. This is because the Earth is spinning and moving around the Sun. This gives us the impression that the stars are moving.
Image: Illustration of the ‘zodiac band’ with a few of the constellations depicting the objects they represent. Credit: LPI USRA
Design your own constellation
The students use luminous paint to paint their own constellation on paper or on a sky map. They can make it any shape they like. They can use existing stars on the sky map or draw their own on white paper.
Explain that they can paint spots (to represent the individual stars), or they can choose to make a drawing of the constellation using the luminous paint. Let the paintings dry on the windowsill or near the radiators.
Once the paintings are dry, make it dark in the classroom. Encourage the students to show their constellations, give them a name, and say what they represent.
Show a picture of the night sky at the end of the activity, ask students if they recognise or find a constellation.
Encourage the students to look at the real night sky at night and find constellations.
Safety note: this activity uses embroidery needles for building the lanterns and requires supervision.