In this lesson, students will learn about what stars actually are and how the Earth turns to make the sky seem to move at night. Also, they will learn about constellations and have a turn at making their own! It is important for students to learn about stars so that they further understand how complex the solar system is and to add more knowledge to their understanding of the sun --our closest star! Also, my students are constantly talking about the stars and how they know about constellations (I'm not sure they do, but they are fascinated with the idea!) so I am tapping in to their interests in this lesson! This lesson aligns to Essential Standard 1.E.1.1, 'Recognize differences in the features of the day and night sky and apparent movement of objects across the sky as observed from Earth'. Our essential questions that we will use to guide the lesson today are "What are stars made out of?" and "Why do stars move?" which were developed by my students during our introductory lesson in this unit. Listen to my Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question to learn more. This lesson also aligns to NGSS 1-ESS1-1, 'Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted' as students use their own observations and observations from media to describe the patterns of the stars in the night sky.
*Nonfiction text about stars & constellations
*Science journals & pencils
*1 piece dark blue or black construction paper per student
*8-10 gold or silver star stickers per student
*Gold, silver, or white crayons
To begin this lesson, I start with a review of the questions my students asked at the beginning of the unit and I say,
"You had lots of questions about lots of different parts of the solar system. Now, you have more knowledge about the moon, the sun, and the Earth. Today, I want you to think of 3 more scientific questions about stars and put them at the top of your page. You have about 2 minutes."
This is a change for my students because we usually do this together or at least with a partner! However, as I prepare them to transition to second grade I want them to be totally ready, and working independently is part of that expectation. After 2 minutes, I ask a few students to share their questions and I add them to our chart for the day where we will take notes about important things we learn. Asking scientific questions supports Science and Engineering Practice 1.
First, to get my students as much information as quickly as possible, we skim a nonfiction book I selected that has most of the answers to the questions that they asked initially about stars. As I read the book, we talk about the content so that it makes sense to my students. I point out the models and diagrams in the text and how they help us, the readers, to make sense of the information. Using grade-appropriate texts to understand scientific content about the natural world supports Science and Engineering Practice 8. After I finish the text, I say,
"Now that you have a lot of information about the stars, look at the three questions you wrote down and see if you can answer them. Write the answers in your journal."
After a minute or two, I ask random students to share one question and an answer. I think that is fair since they had to write down three and I am asking them to share one. After several students share, we move on to the next activity.
To begin the constellation activity, I say,
"We are going to make our own constellations. Let me show you some examples, then you can choose which kind you want to make and get started!"
I use the text to show the real constellations and read the description of how people connect the stars and imagine figures to be in the sky. I explain that they are not really in the sky - it is pretend and that people make up the stories as well. Making a model of the constellations supports Science and Engineering Practice 2, Developing and Using Models. Then, I say,
"You can choose whether you want to make a person or an animal. Then, make it with dots and connect it with the crayons on your table. After your constellation is made, write the name of it underneath so we will all know what it is called!"
To add on to this activity, once my students have created their constellation, they also write a story during literacy that explains their figure!
To end the lesson today, I ask students to share their constellations and names with the group and how they came up with their ideas. Sharing scientific ideas supports Practice 8 --and this one is really fun to share!