Constellations are groups of stars given shapes and names by farmers, astronomers and writers for thousands of years. The reason people gave these groups of stars names was to make it easier to find them. This method of grouping stars is more of a way to help remember which stars are in which parts of the sky. Activities can help you identify, name and find common stars and constellations in the night sky.
Online Game and Activities
Kidsastronomy.com offers an online game called Constellation Hunt. This game selects a constellation either at random or not and asks the player to locate it in the night sky. The game screen shows all the stars in the sky, including the constellations. There is also a hint button that shows where all the constellations are when you roll the mouse over it. This game is tricky and young children will need adult assistance to play successfully. Crayola.com offers a printable worksheet, appropriate for preschool and kindergarten age children, that features Draco the Dragon, Columba the Dove, Cassiopeia and The Little Horse. Connect the dots, then colour in the constellation for an artistic activity. Southeast Missouri State University's website also offers stars and constellation activities for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Make a star finder paper game at NASA's website. Choose the current month and print the page associated with that month. You'll need Adobe Reader to open the file and print it. The printed page contains a pattern and instructions to fold the piece of paper into the star finder. Once folded, you manipulate the star finder by putting your fingers in the paper pockets and open and close it the number of times stated in the directions. Once a turn is complete, you open the paper and see the constellation that was chosen. The constellation shown on the paper is the one you look for in the sky.
Make Your Own
Create your own constellation with common art supplies. Black construction paper and stickers, glue, glitter or even toothpaste make for creative constellations. Pick a specific number to use when making the dots of a constellation. Limit young children to constellations requiring 10 or fewer dots. Older children could use dots up to 20 and higher. Have children connect them in a shape that makes sense.
This activity is designed for children who can identify different constellations. Create a deck of laminated flash cards of constellations. Provide each student with a small paper cup full of small candy. Hold up a flash card for the class and then call out "dump." Children dump out the contents of the cup and make the constellation pictured on the flash card as fast as they can. Students call out "Star" when they're done. The child who finishes first and has the constellation correct wins that round. The child with the most rounds wins the game.