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Earth and Space Science

How to Get Students to Look At the Night Sky

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Adah Stock Adah Stock 101510 Points

Hi All: We aren't with out students when the sun is gone for the day. It was always hard to get students to look up at the sky at night, especially with urban kids who suffer from sky blindness due to city lights. I know that star gazing nights work well but if you don't have the equipment or are situated in an area where being out at night is not such a great idea, what would you do instead? I would love some feedback here about what you would do for middle school students. Thanks in advance. Adah

Paola Hernandez Paola Hernandez 1885 Points

Maybe you could have students look at photographs or other pictures that show what the night sky looks like. You could do something with technology if you have access to Ipads. You could download a free app like night sky that allows you to see where the stars would be even if it is day time. This app shows and labels some constellations, planets, stars, and the sun. I was thinking that in middle school several students already have smart phones and they could download a free app. themselves. I think this would be a great way to engage the students in the science lesson.

Sandra Simmons Sandra Simmons 1365 Points

I have found that assigning certain constellations for the students to look for and draw, or having students draw the phases of the moon as it changes is helpful. My students just love to draw.

Nicole Bristol Nicole Bristol 595 Points

Have a family science night and invite local volunteers. A local school in my community recently had some volunteers with telescopes come out to the school and provide students and their families with opportunities to learn about the night sky.

Nicole Bristol Nicole Bristol 595 Points

Mary Gonzalez Mary Gonzalez 555 Points

Building a prattle planetarium is a super fun idea. Here is a journal article you can read that will tel you all about it and give you ideas for an engaging lesson. Stargazing in Your Classroom Type: Journal Article Grade: Summary: When taking students outside to see the stars is not an option, teachers can bring the stars inside the classroom. These instructions for building a portable planetarium also include suggestions for cross-cultural and social studies connections.

Winnie Wong Winnie Wong 365 Points

If it is possible, I think simulating a night sky in the classroom may be very interesting. You can use glow in the dark stickers to show stars and constellations. Turn off the lights and see how amazed the students can be. You can also discuss light pollution in the city when you teach this topic.

Kathy Jenkins Kathy Jenkins 885 Points

More and more, my students are being directed to use apps on their devices, although I did assign a viewing project this year and I think only two or three students actually attempted it (so I couldn't use it for what was intended.) We no longer can access the planetarium due to cost constraints. We've also had inflatable planetariums brought in but this year, there was no available space to put it up. So, student devices were the best option as well as video clips of specific astronomical topics.

Natarsia Flournoy Natarsia Flournoy 895 Points

Hi, luckily I live in a rural area and the best part of my evening is star gazing; they are so memorizing! My friend and I play a name that constellation game using his google phone app. He points the cell phone towards the sky and it actually calculates the shapes for him. The city kids could make use of a neighborhood park for star gazing along with a cell phone app.

Cassie Anderson Cassie Anderson 410 Points

What about a planetarium? I always thought they were fun.

Bruce Donker Bruce Donker 445 Points

If you have a smart board there are programs that show up well, celestia is a nice one, sky and telescope has some nice programs.

Elizabeth Epstein elizabeth epstein 370 Points

thanks for the idea to use the smart board. so far, i have just seen it used in math, but showing constellations would be really fun for the students.

Fatima Juarez Fatima Juarez 780 Points

As they have said previously, planetariums and smart boards would be a really good idea using community resources. Even museums such as the on that they have in Miami. Also, if you have a little extra (and by little, I mean a good amount but it would be an overall good investment) you can have your very own planetarium in the classroom. If you go to a hobby store, some have very equipment that will light up your ceiling with a very accurate stellar sky. Maybe even an online. Depending on the grade level, it can also be considered to maybe make a project out of making one of these stellar projectors... hmmm...

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 35938 Points

A Vermont teacher used an app so that ALL the children in the classroom were able to see the moon every day. This helped out when it was so cloudy, there was no seeing the moon even if the child wanted to look in the evening. In September 2013 Science Children there is a great article called the Moon Challenge about a short focused research project in which the first graders participated. Kathy

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 35938 Points

A Vermont teacher used an app so that ALL the children in the classroom were able to see the moon every day. This helped out when it was so cloudy, there was no seeing the moon even if the child wanted to look in the evening. In September 2013 Science Children there is a great article called the Moon Challenge about a short focused research project in which the first graders participated. Kathy

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 35938 Points

A Vermont teacher used an app so that ALL the children in the classroom were able to see the moon every day. This helped out when it was so cloudy, there was no seeing the moon even if the child wanted to look in the evening. In September 2013 Science Children there is a great article called the Moon Challenge about a short focused research project in which the first graders participated. Kathy

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

I have had similar problems getting my students to observe at night - and I teach in a rural area. It is heavily wooded, so many kids need to travel a bit to find a clear view of the sky - which most never choose to do. Last year I had them work in small groups to do an iMovie about a constellation, and then map it onto the giant star wheel we drew on our ceiling tiles. More students were motivated to go out and look for the constellation they had been studying.

What a great way to get your students interested in looking at the sky. I loved the idea of using your ceilings to map the constellations. Great that they were more motivated to view the night sky after that experience.

Elizabeth Cooke Elizabeth Cooke 7245 Points

How did you draw a star wheel on your ceiling? This is a really unique idea.

Samira Parhizkar Samira Parhizkar 1930 Points

You can create a star like ball to put in a light. As you turn off the light, you'll turn on the star ball light and they will see stars all over the room. It gets them to have a discussion on how it would like at night with the stars and moon. This would work well up with any students. You can even create a constellation and put in a light.

Gina Mirto Gina Mirto 2460 Points

The planetarium was an excellent way to show our students how the stars shine at night. We also downloaded the tracking our stars app so that we could project the stars and their locations on the board during class.

Lolita Benitez Lolita Benitez 1580 Points

Planetarium sounds like a great idea!

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68605 Points

First there is a very fundamental issue in that it is hard to get anyone to REALLY observe anything. True observation is not easy. The Science Friday SciClub has been running a project called Observe Anything. http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/09/26/2014/science-friday-science-club-observe-everything.html It is rather amazing what has been coming in to the website. Maybe one just needs to get the kids excited about observations in the first place.

Lindsey Truxel Lindsey Truxel 2060 Points

I have several telescopes I got in a grant. I am looking for a great website that can tell me about the night sky so I can make decisions about STAR parties. Does anyone know of any good sites?

Lindsey Truxel Lindsey Truxel 2060 Points

Hey all, one other thing. We are looking at purchasing a sun telescope. Does anyone know of a good one for elementary students that is easy to use? Thanks

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

Are you looking to see just sunspots? An excellent telescope for this is the Sunspotter. It projects an image on a sheet of paper that a group of students can observe at the same time, and is easy to use. https://www.astrosociety.org/products-page/asp-educational-products-asp-educational-products/sunspotter-solar-telescope/ ~$365 You can see more - but it is less user friendly, with a Coronado H-alpha solar telescope. This will allow you to observe flares, prominences spicules, and sunspots. Coronado PST http://www.meade.com/products/coronado/coronado-personal-solar-telescope-pst.html

Lucia Martinez Lucia Martinez 1145 Points

Planetarium sounds like a great idea!

Christen Anderson Christen Anderson 1225 Points

Someone mentioned a planetarium and I think that would be a great idea. The kids would love that!

Ashley Freeman Ashley Freeman 1090 Points


Ashley Freeman Ashley Freeman 1090 Points


Liliana Garcia Liliana Garcia 1335 Points

That sounds like a perfect idea thank you for your advice!!

Christina Diaz Christina Diaz 250 Points

First, you would have to see the area in which the student lives. I know that for Miami-Dade area students, they can just hop in a car and go either East or West. However, not every student might have that same choice. You can perhaps take students to a planetarium or complete a Webquest on the stars. Maybe even buy glow-in-dark stars and create your own "nightsky". Or you can use the NASA website which will have many videos.

Daniel Carroll Daniel Carroll 18570 Points

If you go outside in the early morning you can still see the moon. Often still when school is in session.

Crista Smith Crista Smith 625 Points

If you have iPads or smart phones available there are many apps you can download. You point your device at the sky and it shows you the stars overhead, even during the day. In addition, you could have a guest speaker come to your class. I know my students love guests and get really excited when people come in and talk about their jobs, so hearing about someone who observes the night sky might inspire them to do more of it. See if you have any national/state parks with astronomy programs nearby and if a ranger will come speak to your students about the night sky.

Celina Velasquez Celina Velasquez 655 Points

Students should know that there are opportunities everyday to see night time. If students have a backyard they should take advantage of it yes there might not see many stars but they can describe colors, clouds, planes the moon etc. The planetarium would be a fun field trip to take students to. Turning the classroom into a sky takes creativity and some money Micheals has glow in the dark stars and materials that may make the classroom a great night experience. There might be some night videos or clips that may help students get excited about looking at the sky at night.

Alyssa Dupiche alyssa dupiche 1360 Points

I think that it will be almost impossible to get every student to look at the night sky because we are not with our students all the time. But encouraging the ones that can or able to do so is much better and the ones who cannot maybe using another form of resource. I saw some people mentioned some programs or even having family science night; all of which are great ideas.

Cordelia Sisneros Cordelia Sisneros 200 Points

Check your local planetarium, if it's currently unavailable, showing images in class is sure to grab their attention!

Andrew Chicoine Andrew Chicoine 405 Points

A trip to a planetarium would be fun and informative

Shelbi Ingle Shelbi Ingle 1490 Points

Hi Adah, Getting students to observe the night sky can be really tricky. However, technology today can make observations of the night sky easier. I would recommend the use of pictures if possible. If you have access to a projector in the classroom you could project the picture of the night sky onto the ceiling. This will really get the students attention. By doing this students would be able to gain information from their observations in a way that is similar to looking out at the night sky. Another recommendation I have would be to create a replica of stars on the ceiling of the classroom.This could be a great class project and would encourage students to look at the sky at night.

Stephanie Romano Stephanie Romano 1345 Points

Hello Adah! I have a tapestry with all of the different horoscopes on them. You don't have to get a tapestry but you can introduce the idea constellations and the night sky with horoscope activities. You could start the lesson out with figuring out the students horoscopes and explaining that their horoscope either aries or Gemini and such are connected with constellations in the sky. This makes it more personal for students to get them involved. This also doesn't need the night sky. A tapestry or a fun poster can suffice! Have a great day! Stephanie

Caitlin Greene Caitlin Greene 1235 Points

Wow! I love this idea of having a tapestry in the classroom that shows things such as the solar system or night sky. Great decoration as well as an educational resource!

Neena Paul Neena Paul 1335 Points

I like the ideas mentioned about the planetarium! When I was growing up, most kids - myself included had a 3 day camping trip called Outdoor Education. Doing some stargazing their would be really nice! You could also ask someone from the Air and Space Museum or go their so they can get a little bit more excited about the idea.

Caitlin Woods Caitlin Woods 1235 Points

It would be cool to provide a picture of the night sky and have your students tape it above your bed. Then you can have your students looking at the night sky. OR, you can have stargazing nights somewhere. My astronomy class had that once a month my senior year of high school.

Carly Deeter Carly Deeter 1620 Points

It's hard to show urban kids the night sky when the city lights are clouding the stars. Some of these kids may have never seen the stars before due to this reason.  Showing them pictures of the sky is a great way around this.  I still think students should have the opportunity to enjoy the night sky. Do some research in your area to see if there are any observatories nearby that your class could take a trip to.  

Marisol Lara Marisol Lara 1185 Points

A way to have students to look at the sky at night is to have them record the phases of the moon. Drawing the phases can help when teaching about the moon. In addition, nasa.org, has some great images of space and the sky at night that you can show to your students.

Agnes Chavez Agnes Chavez 1075 Points

A trip to the planetarium would be so much fun!

Elizabeth Miranda elizabeth miranda 385 Points

You can have students create moon logs. Twice a week they go outside and write or draw what they see. At the end of the week the students can turn in their moon logs and compare them in class.

Woody Woodruff John Woodruff 1025 Points

A successful activity for star gazing is to make and learn to use a Planisphere ( movable star chart ). very inexpensive to make (card stock & scotch tape) and easy to use. Students can set planisphere for any date and time... like their birthday or holiday and "see what is up in the sky to see. Use Old Farmer's Almanac for planets and Bingo! sky/stargazing lesson


Erika Segarra Erika Segarra 100 Points

I always loved looking up at the night sky! However, I would always forget to do so especially during the cold winter nights! I think the best way to get your students to look up at the night sky is to assign a fun activity to be considered "homework." If you label as homework they will surely remember to do it, if you make it optional they will most likely forget! The assignment could be as simple as write down 5 things that you see up in the night sky. A planetarium is cool alternative to the actual night sky but it cannot get better than looking at the beautiful night sky!

Emily Cox Emily Cox 415 Points

You could have students complete a sky journal where the sketch the sky they see every night, from the same place, and document how it changes.

Malari Finamore Malari Finamore 260 Points

Hi Adah, There are so many resources available for students who are unable to see the night sky. If you search online, I think that you are able to find live cameras that you can look at the night sky in real-time. If you or the students are unable to gain access to these videos, try YouTube. I love astronomy and I can find videos on the night sky and look at them on there. I hope this recommendation helps you. Malari

Dinaz Lokhandwalla Dinaz Lokhandwalla 1115 Points

I think that doing an assignment about the phases of the moon is a great idea. We were assigned this activity in our college course and it definitely gave us a purpose to "look at the night sky." Not only can you have them document what they see over the course of a whole cycle, but you can do extension activities in class.

Kristina Tran Kristina Tran 770 Points

These resources are awesome!

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