If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen a picture recently of my daughter’s telescope creation.
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She came up with the idea and design, and made the entire thing herself with no guidance from me! I loved it, and her creativity, so I decided to take it a step further and turn it into a science lesson on space, stars and constellations.
This worked out well, because we are also reading some of the Magic Tree House books together, and she has already read Midnight on the Moon, and enjoyed it greatly. The nonfiction companion book, Space, is a great resource and very kid friendly, so I used that as part of our lesson as well. And we also have the The Magic School Bus Lost In The Solar System, which is one of my kids favorites. 🙂
While there is a ton of information we could learn and focus on when exploring space, I decided to keep things simple. The goal was to learn a little about stars and telescopes, and then have some fun looking at and creating different constellations.
To start, I read a few excerpts from Space on stars and telescopes, and we talked about why we need telescopes, as well as how they work.
Then, we went through this Stars and Constellations Fact Sheet together (though my daughter was the only one who actually wrote answers down; everyone else just listened). If you would like this quick fact sheet, it’s free and includes an answer key. I also referred to Solar System Quick for some of these facts, so you can read more there.
Then it was time to see some of the most well known constellations and create our telescope and constellations craft!
- Large piece of paper
- Printable constellation cards
- Small piece of plastic wrap
- Small star stickers
- Crayons and/or markers for decorating (optional)
I used this set of printable constellation cards from Lie Back, Look Up. I like that it includes the star outline on one side, and then some quick facts on the back, but I would caution that when you print them, you may want to print the odd pages, then flip the paper and print the even pages to get them lined up correctly. When I printed them “two-sided,” they did not quite line up and so I couldn’t cut them out.
We first spent some time looking at the various constellations, reading some of the facts and making observations. Then we counted the number of stars in each to see which contains the most and least amount of stars. (If you have older kids, you could then find the average number of stars for all the constellations you look at, as well as look for outliers).
Then my daughter showed us how to create the telescope. (FYI, she was overjoyed to teach everyone-including you-how she made this, and even wrote out directions for me! 😉 ) We have a large roll of paper from IKEA that we used, but I’m sure any kind of paper would do. Your telescope just might end up a little smaller than ours.
Decorate the paper with pictures and colors and any other designs you like. Then roll it into the telescope shape and secure it with tape. Make sure there is a small opening at the narrow end so that you can look through to see your constellation!
After rolling and securing with tape, you may have to trim the end to make it even. You’re going to tape the plastic wrap over the end, and you want it to be as level as possible.
Next, take a piece of plastic wrap for covering foods (or use a ziplock bag with the zip closure side cut off) and place it on top of your constellation of choice. My daughter included two constellations, but if your telescope is smaller, you may only be able to fit one. You will also want to tape the plastic wrap to the table so it doesn’t slide around. Using star stickers, place a “star” on your piece of plastic over top of each of the stars in the constellation card picture.
When you have correctly placed all the stars for your constellation, lay the plastic wrap on the large end of the telescope facing down, so that when you look through the narrow end you will see the constellation facing the correct direction.
Secure the plastic wrap to the telescope with tape, and you’re done!
Here’s what it will look like when you gaze through your telescope. My kids had SO much fun with this, and it only took a few minutes and a handful of items from around the house! Because trust me, I am NOT crafty. So if I can handle this, anyone can!
And when you’re done, take the telescope outside and do some “star gazing!” My daughter loved showing off in her fort. 🙂
Afterwards, we played with the really cool app, Skyview. I received this as a free download from my Starbucks Rewards app, but it looks like there is a free version as well. This app allows you to point your phone at the sky and see what stars, planets and constellations are around you. My kids LOVE playing with it, and we had fun trying to find their constellations in the sky!
We’re also planning a field trip to our local planetarium to learn more (once we’ve “officially” started school), and they are really looking forward to that.
What are some of your favorite resources for learning about space? I hope you enjoy this craft as much as my kids did! 🙂