Over the past 6,000 years, astronomers and poets have linked the stars into recognisable configurations. Constellations help to segment the sky into comprehensible sizes. They act as memory aids for people to pinpoint a star's location, such as the star Rigel in the foot of Orion. Interactive games introduce children to the major constellations and the ways in which astronomers have connected stars.
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Have children visit websites that enable them to search a star-speckled sky for constellations. For example, KidsAstronomy.com offers a challenging game in which kids must search for a particular constellation, such as Ursa Major, in a night sky. Roll over a button that reads "See the Constellations" and kids can study the constellations outlined in white lines. Roll off the button and locate the constellation among hundreds of stars.
Children can learn about the constellations via online quizzes that provide a brief scientific background of the constellation and its corresponding image. Funbrain.com's "The Space Hopper Game" offers constellation quizzes that cover either the dozen constellations associated with the Zodiac or the major 27 constellations. Children can take an easy multiple choice quiz or the challenging version, which requires them to type in the constellation's name.
Have children play interactive matching games in which they pair a constellation, or pattern, to the image that inspired the constellation's name. For example, Harcourt School Publishers offers "Stargazers," in which children try and match a diagram of a constellation, such as Pegasus, to a famous character from an ancient Greek or Roman story. Children have to sort through a half dozen images, ranging from a winged horse to a queen perched on a throne, to identify the appropriate image. If the child has identified the image correctly, the game superimposes the image over the diagram.
Children can access sky maps on the Internet and view the constellations charted from different positions depending on the location. AstroViewer provides an interactive tool in which users can click on a major city, such as New York, Los Angeles, Rome, London, Sydney or Singapore, and view the positions of major constellations in the sky in real time. The names of the constellations, such as "Great Bear," "Little Bear," "Twins" and "Hero," have been simplified to enable children to quickly identify the constellations. The viewer also provides the exact date and time in the upper right corner.
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