Exploring Constellations


I’ve been looking for bulletin board ideas that grab and sustain the attention and learning of students without costing an inordinate amount of time or effort. In addition, as part of my goal of cultivating lovers of nature, rather than lovers of screens, I’m on the lookout for ways of teaching students to be fluent in nature. If you’ve never heard of nature fluency, that’s because it’s my personal coinage. I want my students to be able to name and watch for many pieces of God’s creation: stars, constellations, trees, wildflowers, birds, and edible plants.

I share these pictures with you, not because I think this board is beautiful or even well-designed, but to share the idea of making bulletin boards that retain the background, border, and heading, but change slightly in content from week to week.

For five or six weeks after our science unit about stars and constellations, we learned a different constellation each week. The stars are pieces of cardstock covered with aluminum foil. The lines between the stars are made with string. I used the illustrations in Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey to help me figure out how to replicate the constellations.

To introduce each constellation, I first displayed the constellation without the label for the name. I had them tell me what they thought they saw. Then I added the label and read-aloud the pertinent section from Find the Constellations.

The Great Bear, Ursa Major


Gemini, The Twins

But the bulletin board constellations were only an introduction . To help students identify and retain the names of more constellations, I decided to make the learning hands-on. My third and fourth graders worked with partners to choose a constellation from my stack of flashcards I printed from this link.

Constellation flashcards

Then they attached pieces of sticky tac to large pieces of construction paper to make bigger replicas of the constellation they had chosen. After I checked their sticky tac constellation pictures for accuracy, they took thumb tacks and poked holes where the sticky tac was. Finally, they used white crayons to draw lines attaching the “stars” and forming a picture of their constellation.

We then hung these on our classroom windows and on days when it was sunny and snowy, we had glowing constellations. On other days we had odd looking black pieces of paper covering our windows! The constellation papers and bulletin boards provided an inexpensive educational tool that my students had helped to create, plus it nurtured their interest in and love of nature.

Ursa Major Cassiopeia

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