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SWBAT identify common constellations in the sky that are visible in the current season.

Big Idea

Building upon their learning experiences about stars and their brightness, students will become more familiar with the patterns that these stars make in the night sky.

Lesson Overview-5E Lesson Plan

5 minutes

Unit 2:Sun-Earth Connection (Solar System)

Lesson 16 : Constellations

5E Lesson Planning:

I plan most of my science lessons using the BSCS 5E Lesson Model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.For a quick overview of the model, take a look at this video.

I use this lesson model because it peaks the students' interest in the beginning during the "Engage" portion and allows for the students to actively participate in the investigations throughout the subsequent steps. The “Evaluate” component of the 5E Lesson Model can be used in many ways by the teacher and by the students.

A great resource for lesson plan frameworks and explanations is the Community Resources for Science. The 5E Lesson Planning Template and 5E Lesson Planning Prompts come from this website. 

Unit Overview:

In this Unit students will learn about the solar system by studying the sun, the moon, planets and stars. In the first three lessons the students will learn about the Sun. Lessons 4 through 7 focus on the movement of the Earth around the Sun. Lesson 8 is a lesson about Orreries, lessons 9 and 10 cover solar eclipses, lessons 11 and 12 are about the moon, lesson 13 discusses the other planets in the Solar System, and the last 4 lessons; 14-16 are about stars and constellations.  

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson students will learn about the more common constellations that are found in the night sky and will learn about why these constellations only appear during certain times of the year.

You will also need the following materials to complete this lesson:

  • constellation cut out circles sheet 
  • black construction paper or black butcher paper
  • white crayons
  • chalk
  • flashlights (1 per partnership or group)

Next Generation Science Standards:

This lesson focuses on the Disciplinary Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts of the NGSS but not any specific performance expectations of the NGSS Standards. However, it is good background information for students for when they start learning about the NGSS Standard 5-ESS1-1:Support an argument that the apparent brightness of the sun and stars is due to their relative distances from the Earth. Since the Moon is the closest object to the Earth, it is easily observable. It also supports 5-ESS1-2: Represent data in graphical displays to reveal daily changes in the length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky. 

Disciplinary Core Ideas: This lesson aligns to the Disciplinary Core Idea from the Earth and Space Science:

ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System. The Earth’s orbit and rotation,and the orbit of the moon around the Earth cause observable patterns.

Crosscutting Concepts:


Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena. (5-ESS1-2)

Science and Engineering Practices:

Making and Using Models:

Models include diagrams, physical replicas, mathematical representations, analogies, and computer simulations. Although models do not correspond exactly to the real world, they bring certain features into focus while obscuring others. All models contain approximations and assumptions that limit the range of validity and predictive power, so it is important for students to recognize their limitations. (from Appendix F- Science and Engineering Practices)


10 minutes

I make sure that when the students walk into the Science Room that the drawing of the Spring night sky is visible. This is drawn on a large piece of black butcher paper using white crayons and chalk. The drawing is based on a constellation picture from the Teacher Created Resources book Stars and Planets  but you can Google "Spring Constellations" and get lots of images for this. I projected it onto the black paper so I could outline the stars and constellations with white crayon and I used chalk to show the Milky Way. I also draw the ecliptic line which is the path that the sun and planets appear to follow in the sky. I have the kids observe the constellation drawing and tell them to think about what they are seeing. Here are students making the observation

When they get back to their tables I ask them about the drawing. I tell them to talk to their table groups about what they noticed and I have them share their ideas. Several students said that the picture is showing constellations and I ask them what a constellation is. A student raises their hand and defines a constellation as a group of stars that forms a pattern. I write this on the board and tell the students to copy this in their Science Notebooks.

I then ask the students about what constellations they see drawn on the butcher paper and many say "Big Dipper", Little Dipper, and Orion. One student remembered that we read about Orion in the Stars and Nebulae article in the previous lesson. I then ask them what they think the "cloudy" part is. Some say it's a Nebula (most likely because of our last lesson) and others say galaxy. I then ask them which galaxy they think it might be and give them a couple of hints- what do you drink with cookies? (milk). When they hear this, someone says "Milky Way Galaxy". I ask if anyone has see the Milky Way and a few students raise their hands.

I explain to them that we are going to do an activity to learn about more constellations and how to view the night sky using different tools.




30 minutes

I give copies of the constellation cut outs to the students and I have them cut out constellation discs. After they have cut out the constellation discs, I give them each a large paperclip and show them how to punch holes in the disks. I make sure to emphasize to them that this can be a difficult task and that they need to be very careful when they push the holes through. I would recommend that they have something underneath the discs to make pushing the holes through easier.

I ask the students why they think the constellations are named the way they are (looking for patterns) and I tell them that when people looked into the night sky many years ago, they saw that they could connect the stars that they could see to form pictures like that of a dog, a bear, people, and familiar objects. I tell them the lines are imaginary and I ask if the stars look like the picture of the constellations I showed them earlier. 

After they have finished their disks, I show them the flashlights we will be using to project the constellations onto the drawing from earlier. I remind them that not all of the constellations can be seen during this time of year and I ask the students why they think this is. I remind them about some of the earlier lessons we did when we learned about the movement of the Earth around the Sun and what happens during this time. A few students share that we would only see certain constellations during certain times of year because of the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun (we wouldn't see certain constellations that are behind the Sun during certain parts of the year).

The student start projecting the constellations onto the butcher paper and I ask them about what shapes they are making. I also ask them to name the constellations they are projecting (the names are attached to the discs). I pick a few students to draw and label their constellations on the chart so we can have a reference for students who want to start star gazing.

I tell them that there are several ways to view and learn about the constellations with one of them being the use of a star chart like this one or by using this tool the constellation finder. I also tell the students that there are a few apps for their tablets or phones such as "Sky Guide" or "Night Sky".