Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stars and Constellations

Star Lesson: Let Us Step Back In Time

In today's star lesson, we will make a basic star, design our own constellation, learn about the North Star (Polaris), make a mini view finder, and paint a picture on a 4 x 4 canvas!
 (Virginia SOL's are at bottom of the post)
teach students how to make a five point star
source: http://the-polka-dot-umbrella.blogspot.com

1. Make a five point star!  Show students how to make guide dots (or use numbers as in the pic to the right) and then demo this by not lifting the pencil....

Remind students that the same stars in the sky today were the same stars that Van Gogh looked at, the same ones DaVinci painted under, and were the same stars around when Jesus was born, when Rome was built and when Egyptians were making their symbols!

2. Teach what a constellation is:  "As the stars move through the sky, they stay in the same patterns that seem to form a shape or picture, which we call constellations." 

They are not real pictures and instead are like connect the dot pictures - or connect the stars.  Visuals help to explain star patterns (below are the games and books that help this elementary lesson).

3. Make Your Own Constellation: 

I set up a table with different types of stars (foam stars, glow in the dark ones, plastic ones, stickers, etc.) and 12 x 12 paper for the base. They came out awesome!

This is Issac's constellation!

4. Learn about the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. 

Show the big dipper, talk about what a scoop or soup ladle (spoon or gourd) looks like.  Also remind students that they may need to be outside for a while to see different "magnitudes" or brightness of stars!

Warning!  Be very careful at how many rabbit trails this lesson can  lead to!  Sometimes the science in this art lesson can start to include so many facts and misc. tidbits where kids may get overloaded - and sometimes that means they retain less!  So keep in mind the age of students, how much time you have, and pick the focus of your lesson and then stick with it!

For our lesson today, I stayed focused on some beginning constellations to start looking for!  

 Today's main focus was on star patterns - SHAPES IN THE SKY- so I had to resist singing the planet song and resist rabbit trails about comets, earth's rotation, etc. - However, I did mention the Follow the Drinking Gourd folksong (click here for more on that)

5. Learn about the North Star.  

The North Star (Polaris) is located at the end the little dipper's handle. These are great beginning constellations to identify. 

Show where the North Star is using a picture
Talk about how the North Star does not seem move. 
 (However, scientists say the North Star, also called Polaris, is actually almost stationary - because Polaris is circumpolar and can be seen at all times of the year).  
I use the below model to show how the stars move (or appear to move as the earth rotates) over time.  
I have an easy to follow example (of circumpolar movement)-
Tell the student to imagine their bedroom ceiling - and if their parents painted stars on their ceiling with a moving circle - the North Star might be right near that center tack that holds the plate up there. 
This model helps show how the stars move (appear to move) over time

Sometimes I mention "star signs" or the zodiac belt - and mention how there are certain stars in the sky at different months.  Some say the stars out when we are born can be used to tell things about your personality (and I ask if they think this is silly or not) - and can mention how the wise men that came to visit baby Jesus were astrologers.  
But I am careful as to how much I talk about "zodiac signs" because that topic has some weird (unGodly) connections that I prefer to stay away from. 

  Some tidbits I include with the North Star:

           A.  I like to refer to the folktale (song): "Follow the Drinking Gourd" to illustrate how the
North Star can be used for NAVIGATING!  Sometimes I read the song in the book or tell the song like a poem  but today, I just referred to a section - a chant from one of the directions from the underground railroad:
(i.e.The riverbank makes a very good road.
The dead trees will show you the way.
Left foot, peg foot, traveling on,
Follow the Drinking Gourd)
but stars can be a great Black History lesson connection: http://www.followthedrinkinggourd.org 

Source: unknown
When Jesus was born, the star that shone
above his location was NOT the North Star
It is believed to have been a Super Nova,
comet, or some unusual astronomical event!
Recent talk suggests that it could have been
Jupiter in retrograde motion
           B. How Shakespeare had a character that said he was unmoving and used a simile with the North Star: Julius Caesar said, "But I am constant as the northern star" Act 3 Scene 1

           C.  The North Star was NOT the star that shone above Baby Jesus (also known as the star of Bethlehem).  Instead, the star that shone above the manger was likely a Super Nova (that lingered for 70 days) or was a comet or was some other type of "unusual astronomical event"
One theory about the Bethlehem Star (by Ivor Bulmer-Thomas) is that it was Jupiter passing through a stationary point in its orbit - and if the wise men followed Jupiter from when it began behind the sun (around May 5 B.C.) they could have seen Jupiter pass through a stationary point four months later (which would have been the length of their journey). Click here to read more!

6. Paper Beading 

Because we were reflecting back in time today, and because constellations are patterns of stars - we also made patterns with paper beads!  (i.e. blue, blue, red, orange; blue, blue, red, orange)
  Making beads is a fine motor skill activity and gives students a nice take away (or a nice gift to give as well)!  We used a Martha Stewart paper bead Kit (leftover from a close-out sale) but any paper and tape can be used. 

Paper Beads

7. Painting! Using Acrylic paints and 4 x 4 canvasses, students  painted their own creation!

After we learned about stars and moved through some optional stations,
each student painted a 4 x 4 canvas of anything they wanted
Their painting did not have to include stars
I left that as an option because they already made their own constellation -
and as Judy Decker would say... every project for students does NOT have to be,

8. Make a MINI VIEWFINDER to see HOW the stars line up to make a pattern. 

The view finder is a very small addition to today's lesson (but you could make it a bigger part byhaving kids decorate the tube or cover it with paper, patterns, space words, etc.) , 

But this simple little activity has much value for: 
constructing with different materials; for poking star holes; using a rubber band (with maturity); recycling TP tubes; creating your own take home piece; and looking through the view finder to see the light, which reinforces the constellation theme and provides a another way to grasp the concept!
Supplies for the recycled view finder: recycled TP tube, square sheet of paper (with or with out the big dipper)
rubber band, pencil with a nice tip for poking holes)
Students can make the big dipper OR any constellation (even make up their own).

I love it when students come up to me and show fun shapes they find -
and Benjamin found a cool #8 in his pretzel today!

Virginia SOL's and this lesson:

  1. General Educational Standard (ES.14
  2. The student will investigate and understand the planets and other members of the solar system. Key concepts include cosmology and the origin of stars and stellar systems (the Big Bang, stellar evolution, star systems, nebulae, constellations, and galaxies.) 

Fine Art SOLs targeted in this workshop:

K.3 Learn about and make shapes (star shapes and star patterns - constellation pictures)
K.8; 5.11  Spatial relationships  (spacing between stars to make constellations)
K.15; 1.3; 8.22; AI.13  Classify and learn art terms (patterns, shapes, lines - and use appropriate art vocabulary)
K.16 Express and discuss expression in personal works of art (tell about your patterns and about the constellation you made; also share about your canvas painting....) 

1.4 Create art inspired by a theme (star theme)
1.5 Create art from real and imaginary sources of inspiration. (Make up your pattern or copy ancient ones)
1.8 Develop coordination by drawing and constructing (Make a five point star, sketch a star, make a pattern of stars into a picture, roll paper beads, cut elastic string, plan color patterns, paint a 4 x 4 canvas, etc.)

2.9  Use a variety of sources for art ideas, including nature, people, images, imagination, and resource materials. (be inspired by constellations, recognize the big dipper <and more constellations if time and interest allow> and use science and stars to create with)
2.18 Distinguish between natural and man-made objects in environment (learn about science and stars)

3.2 Use various art processes and techniques to produce works of art that demonstrate craftsmanship.  (glue or stick on star patterns, use acrylic paints and pre-sketch and underdrawing, use shredded money to add texture to a piece, roll paper into beads and string them, make a view finder with recycled materials, etc.)
3.3  Develop art ideas from a variety of sources (stars and science)
3.4  Use patterns that extend the sequential structure and use different motifs
3.5 Use different shapes in a work of art (constellations)
3.6; 8.14; AI.12  History, cultures, and different times and places (as we look at how the same stars were in the sky over the centuries)

4.3; 8.6 Use themes in a work of art (space theme)
4.5; 5.4;  6.2;  7.3; AII.10 Create repeating patterns, use repetition and variety in a work of art (star patterns, bead patterns, sequence of stars etc.)

5.3; 8.2; AI.3; AI.8; AII.3  Use Elements of Art (including shapes) to personally express
5.12; 6.16; 7.14; AI:7; AII.5  Express ideas through artistic choices of media, techniques, and subject matter. (Students choose their own materials and projects at  each station - use a range of media!)

ENTIRE LIST OF VA fine art sol's here

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