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Earth and Space Science

Earth and Sky

Author Post
Sara Kinyon Sara Kinyon 2100 Points

I am currenlty going throgh the Earth and Sky scipack and I'm trying to think of lessons that tie into my standards. I have quite a few ideas for the water cycle but I am wondering if anyone has any ideas for teaching the basic movements of the sun and moon or for teaching how constellations stay the same even thought they appear to move. Thanks for any help!

Lindsey Huynh Lindsey Huynh 650 Points

Hi, I recently taught my Kindergarten students about the sun and moon phases. They didn't need to know about rotation but, I believe you can still use my ideas to help your students better understand it. The materials I used were 3 different sized balls and a flashlight. I asked two volunteers to each hold a ball. The largest ball represented the sun, and the medium-sized ball represented Earth. The volunteer who held the "sun" also held the flashlight and pointed it toward "Earth". I placed each student in the correct position. I held the smallest ball which represented the moon and explained how the 4 moon phases (new moon, 1st quarter, full moon, and 3rd quarter) formed. I stated that depending on its position as it revolves around the Earth the sunlight and Earth's shadow made up the phases we see. They loved the demonstration, and I believe it helped them build an understanding of the moon phases in a fun and engaging way!

Katherine Tierney Katherine Tierney 1780 Points

Hi Sara, I am completing the Earth and Sky Scipack as well. I was able to find some good lessons and activities in the FOSS kit. I am not sure if your new school has FOSS, but I was able to go online to the FOSS website and download some activities and printables. In the past I used NASA for kids website. They have tutorials and videos as well as links to worksheets and classroom activities. I am planning on having them do a take home project with art and drawing the moon during it's different phases. I also think it would be fun to link the Hawaiian studies standards with the constellations since the ancient hawaiians used the stars as a navigational tool. Let me know what you find in regards to the constellations. Katie

Liamarie Thomas Liamarie Thomas 2360 Points

Hi Sara~ A little off track but the Bishop Museum Planetarium has a great show about the constellations and how the Hawaiians used them to travel. I believe they offered some websites that you can access to help bring the constellations more to life for the students. When my class worked on the solar system the students loved the activity in which they simulated the movement of the planets. It was difficult for them to grasp that some of the planets are moving in different directions. Maybe going back to look through the sci pack on the solar system can help give you ideas. Aloha, Lia

Opt_out Opt_out Tara Soleta 1560 Points

I found a fun way for kids to learn the constellations! Using the the website you can view the current night's sky. Students are able to see the constellations (you can also print out a copy). They use a pencil and white paper to draw a chosen or assigned costellation using spaced out dots. Place the white paper on top of a black piece of construction paper. Using a pencil point, carefully poke through the holes of both pieces of paper. Students then use a white crayon to connect the dots drawn on the black paper. Afterwards, they can attach an index card that labels and describes the constellation. These are taped to a window where the sun can shine through the holes. Students then have a galary of constellations right in their classrooms!

Nohelani Kobayashi Nohelani Kunishige 2060 Points

Thanks Tara on your post on how you teach students about the constellations. This is my first time teaching third grade and one of the third grade standards is about constellations. So this would be a great activity to do with them. Nohe

Mrs Hawk Catherine Hawkins 2400 Points

Hi - last year we did a fun lesson plan that incorporated writing and constellations. Students used graph paper to graph their names and then made their own constellations, and came up with a modern day legend which they wrote about. We used black construction paper with star stickers for them to plot their constellations. I had a lot of requests to do that activity again and again!

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 88033 Points

Yes, that is a great activity for integrating writing with science, Catherine. I did a similar thing, only had the students take present day constellations, connect the dots in a new way to create their constellations and stories. They are so creative!
Sara, have you heard of Starry Night Backyard? It is software program that is not very expensive. It has excellent lessons that come with an incredible software program for viewing the night skies of the past, present and future!
Also, please check out the discussion thread: Earth and Space Science - BestAstronomyLabs for more great ideas already posted.

Veronica Winegarner Veronica Winegarner 1870 Points

Constellations are a fascinating topic for kindergarteners. I was thinking about doing a lesson on constellations, and I told my husband about it. He said that the best book he ever saw about learning the constellations is a book by H.A. Rey, the man who created Curious George. The book about the constellations is called The Stars: A New Way to See Them. What Mr. Rey did was figure out a way to draw the figures of the constellations as stick figures so that all you have to do is connect the dots, and you can “see” the image of Gemini, the Twins, or Taurus, the Bull, or Cygnus, the Swan. It’s amazing because you can spend a little time looking at the figures the way that he draws them and then go outside and find them right there in the sky. Rey’s book also has great information about how to visualize the scale of objects in the solar system. For instance, he shows that if the sun was the size of a beach ball placed on the goal line of a football field, and then, you place a pea on the line eighty yards out, you have the approximate scale of the sun and the earth and the distance between them. Being able to visualize that makes the size of not only the solar system but the whole universe astonishing. I was looking on the back of the book, and Albert Einstein wrote a blurb for it! I love this book.

Sara Kinyon Sara Kinyon 2100 Points

Wow, thanks for all your great ideas. I can't wait to get started! :)

Erin Mendelson Erin Mendelson 2680 Points

Hi Sara, Referring to the Polynesian wayfinders, I often teach the constellations as a I tie them into navigation. In Hawaii, since the seventies, there has been a resurgance of interest and renewal of the lost art of star navigation. Hawaiian people had different names for the constellations. For instance, scorpio was seen as the fishing hook of Maui. I love the idea of students creating their own constellations. This site has a simple downloadable star finder that students can construct.

Jubilee Herr Jubilee Herr 480 Points

Hi Sara! I saw your comments and just remembered this activity I read from a book. To teach the movements of planets, you can have children to role-play the planets in the space. So, give children the names of each planet and through your direction, you can have them move to show how some planets move and some don’t move. To improve their visualization, you can maybe print out a picture of a planet and attach it to some sort of hat. You can have children to wear the hat and represent the planets. Just some rough ideas.. but good luck!!

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

While I do not have lessons I can suggest internet resources. You might try Google Earth because there is a sky feature that takes you into the night sky and shows the constellations and the zodiac and if you enter a date, where the planets are in the sky in relation to the constellations (and the sun). Another fun resource is Uncle Al's Star Wheels - these are star and constellation finders that you can make with two sheets of heavy paper and then students can go out at night and look to see what they can find. There are more than one kind, but I don't know if these would work in Hawaii or not because they are generally latitude dependent - but it would only take two sheets of paper to find out. There do not seem to be many articles about this topic - pity because it really is important. You might try looking at [i]The Law of Location[/i] below for ideas about distances and objects in space like constellations and stars (and the Sun for that matter - it is always the same size too). Speaking of the Sun...Another idea might be to spend time looking at the Sun after doing this lesson, just to see what it looks like on it's surface. Not directly, but using a type of pinhole camera apparatus like described here just to get an idea - you could then extrapolate and ask what they think they might see from a star in one of the constellations if they did the same thing? (which would again depend on how close they were but since it is a star too, one might assume it would look similar if you were close enough. But since it is sooooo far away, we just see it as a point of light in a constellation, just like the sun would look like a point of light from, say, Pluto!) There are some collections that also deal with lessons and articles about the Sun, Earth and Moon and how they relate to each other, have you checked out the collections yet? I know there are at least one NSTA collection in addition to those by other Learning Center participants. Are there other articles and websites on constellations?


Judy Okazaki Judy Okazaki 4175 Points

H.A. Rey also had an interesting project described in his book Find the Constellations. If possible, I would like to try his umbrella planetarium, where the students will paint (with glow in the dark paints) the constellations on the umbrella with the North Star in the middle so that when you rotate the umbrella, it seems that the constellations are moving around the North Star.

Liamarie Thomas Liamarie Thomas 2360 Points

Hi Jubilee, I have also done an activity similar to the one you did with the students wearing a pictue of the planets. I prefaced the lesson with a Bill Nye video on the solar system. They kids loved it! At the same time they were able to add to their "Bank of Knowledge" (that's where we deposit things we have gained). We expanded the activity a little more by having the planets rotate in the correct direction around the sun. Then we expanded a little more by having the moons or at least some of the moons for the planets rotate around their assigned planet while the planet rotated around the sun. Needless to say you need a big open area to do this activity! But the kids had a blast and definitely had a deeper sense of what it means to orbit the sun! Bill Nye has several vidoes on the solar system and the kids are engaged and remember so much more animatedly than I would be able to! Aloha, Lia Thomas

Opt_out Opt_out Tara Soleta 1560 Points

Hi Lia, My students really enjoy The Magic School Bus! I found a lesson to try on the Scholastic site that can be effective and fun! Using the book [u]The Magic School Bus Lost in Space[u] students are able to participate in the acivity with Ms. Frizzle. My students will identify the plaents by making two models of the Solar System. The first shows the order of the plants and the second shows the planets' relative size using items such as a basketball for Jupiter and softballs for Uranus and Neptune. The studnets are asked: What are the names of the plnets in the Solar System? What order are they in? -Hand out copies of the DISCOVER THE PLANETS page. -Have the students do "Be a Planet" in groups of 10. They can be the Sun or one of the planets. Each student makes a label showing the planet (or Sun) that he/she stands for. -Give groups the balls to do "Make a Model." Students can show the approximate size of the plaents in relation to one another by lining up the round items in the order of the plaents. Afterwards they can write about the plnet they like, telling its name, its location from the Sun, and what is special about it. Using the book can give students a storyline to follow and also give them the anticipation of how Ms. Frizzle's students will find her in space : ) Aloha, Tara

Alayna Maldonado Alayna Maldonado 1750 Points

One inquiry lesson I do every year to show the movements of light and moon phases is to give each group of students a soccer ball or volleyball. They use the flashlight to shine on the ball to represent different moon phases. They then draw and label each phase. I believe I got the flashlights from a FOSS kit and the lesson idea is in our Third Grade Harcourt Science textbook. The students really seem to enjoy this every year and it is a simple way for them to recreate the phases of the moon.

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

Seeing all of the discussion about constellations, I found a site that offers a large selection of lessons, activities, and other educator resources. All of these activities target a variety of grade ranges and offer a selections that should offer something for everyone.

Mrs Hawk Catherine Hawkins 2400 Points

Hi Sue and all - thanks for the great link on the constellations. I can see some wonderful ideas here for lesson plans for many different age groups. I think constellations are a fascinating topic for students of all ages. It is something that is right there for them - our Hawaii night sky in many places is still very clear (I guess that's the Big Island) where it is very rural still. I have found the students can make so many deep connections when looking and studying about the sky! Thanks for your resources!

Opt_out Opt_out Tara Soleta 1560 Points

Hi Sue, Thanks for the link! I was able to implement parts of the, It's Still Polaris activity with my 4th graders. We had a field trip planned to the Bishop Museum and the Planetarium was an exciting activity that we were able to incorporate. I was able to prep my students the lesson and complete it on the field trip instead of having them attempt to do it at home with their parents. The planetarium allowed the students to view the night sky in a faster motion. This allowed them to see the process of the moving stars while the concepts were reinforced. If you ever have the opportunity to expose your students to this experience, I highly recommend it! Aloha, Tara

Liamarie Thomas Liamarie Thomas 2360 Points

Aloha Erin~ I am also from Hawaii and have heard some of the Hawaiian legends of how the earth and sky were created. The planitarium field trip to the Bishop Museum is a great way to get they students interested in the constellations. One of my colleagues had mentioned a great extention to the field trip, similar to the one you mentioned. Give the students a picture of each constellation but instead of having them just name it, have them create a new picture out of the stars and give it a name they will remember. They also had to write a story (legend) that goes with their constellation. It was a great way for the students to get more familiar with the different constellations and really focus on they ones they found extraordinary. After we did this a few more of my students were able to say that they could point out the different constellations at night. Here is a website that gives great constellation lesson ideas and background information: Have fun exploring the night sky! Aloha, Lia

Erin Mendelson Erin Mendelson 2680 Points

HI Lia, I love your idea of naming and creating new constellations. Recently, my students read the story of How Maui Tamed the Sun. Students drew pictures and summarized the legend into a book of Hawaiian legends. Students were able to visualize Maui waiting for the sun to rise in the East and set in the West. I also compared the Hawaiian names for the stars to the Western interpretations. For instance, for Hawaiian star gazers the tail of scorpio is seen as the hook of Maui. I have enjoyed combining social studies and science standards through these NSTA courses. Thanks!

Vivian Del Cid Vivian Del Cid 3265 Points

I really like the idea of a moon crater art project for younger students. You can cut cardstock or construction paper into a circle and have students draw craters within the circle with pencils. Then use the glue to “draw” over the lines and when the glue is dry use watercolors to paint the moon. They can use whatever colors they want but using blues, greens, greys, and purples will give a realistic look for a blue moon. This way they can see and feel the ‘craters’ when the moons are dry.

Marved Altamirano Marved Altamirano 410 Points

Hi Sara, I think a really good idea for this cool topic is to incorporate models! For example you can teach the kids about the sky you could create a model of it with a toy sun and add some cotton to represent clouds. Then for the earth, i would have them observe and touch a plant with soil so they may get a good idea of how both differentiate from each other.

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