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Home » Ideas & Exploration » Stars

Interact, Understand, Expand


Stars: Interact

Your child may know what to do right away. Otherwise, you can show him how to click on the wand then use it to click on stars to "connect-the-dots."

You might find it interesting to try to predict how your child will approach this game. Will he want to click through the four skies first or jump right into the first sky he sees?

If he looks through all four skies first, ask what he liked about the one he chose. Was it something about the season? For example, did he choose the season of a birthday, favorite holiday or favorite sport?

Or was it something about the screen? For example, did he like the color, or something particular about the landscape? Did he see a special shape in the configuration of the stars?

It might be easier for younger children to show you which stars they want included while you click the mouse for them.

For better accuracy, you may want to print the selected sky and connect the stars by hand using bright gel pens or pin pricks (see Expand).

If your child drew characters in the stars, ask questions about this character's life and how it came to live in the sky. Your questions can encourage your child to imagine more and more about this character.

Print out some of your favorite constellations. You might want to print out a few copies, to keep and to use for some of the activities in the Expand section.

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Stars: Understand

"Will children taught ‘it depends' grow up to be insecure adults? Or will they be more confident in a world of change than those of us brought up with absolutes?"
—psychology professor Ellen Langer

This activity is about both fluent ideation and lively imagination.

In her book Mindfulness, Ellen J. Langer talks about how people can be much more creative and generate new uses for objects simply if they are told what the object might be rather than what it is. The Stars activity encourages seeing what might be.

For example, children who already know a lot about the constellations may start by connecting those they recognize. This would be their idea of what a constellation is. The goal then would be to move beyond to ideas of what a constellation might be. To start from the known, from common ideas, is quite typical. Even people who generate lots of creative ideas, or show great fluent ideation, tend to produce common ideas first, as if to clear them out of the way, before producing unusual or original ones.

Your child may relate to the characters portrayed in classical constellations or may draw new characters. People of many cultures have long imagined other people-like or animal figures in the stars.

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Stars: Expand

Learn more about the stars through your own powers of observation.

Offline Activities

You could print an extra copy of a favorite constellation, tape it to heavier paper or light cardboard, and use the tip of a pushpin to make holes where the "stars" are. In a dark room, hold the pin-pricked paper or cardboard parallel to the ceiling, and shine a flashlight under it. Can you see the constellation on the ceiling?

Light pollution often occurs in and around big cities. If you can't see many stars where you live, you might visit a planetarium if there is one nearby.

Remember: use your own creativity to generate ideas that inspire you and your child! To see an age-by-age breakdown of what your child might be ready for, check out the PBS Parents Child Development Tracker.

Online Resources

You might like to try Shadowcasting and its related activities, too.

For inspiration in making up stories about the characters in your own constellations, visit Cathy Bell's site about the Mythology of the Constellations.

Some constellations are signs in the zodiac. Consider what people have believed about how the stars might influence earth and people. Try Sagwa's Chinese Zodiac game.

Stretch your musical memory with stars when you try Caillou's Follow the Stars. If you like it, try out the Pentatonic Scales.

Older children (5 and up) might enjoy simultaneously considering how stars help explorers navigate and who might live on distant planets at Cyberchase Star Gazer.

If your child chose skies on the basis of spring or summer being a favorite season, he or she may also enjoy "planting" flowers for that season in Window Boxes.

Books and References

Backyard Stars: A Guide for Home and the Road by Klutz Press (ages 5 and up). A fun and useful laminated brochure that offers maps of the seasonal night skies marked with unconventional constellations such as ice-cream cones. No binoculars needed.

Night Sky magazine. If you can stargaze where you live, this magazine can be a guide to your beginning astronomer. Articles include reviews of equipment and updates on events like meteor showers, eclipses, etc.

Enjoy the family activities provided in Sharing Nature with Children: The Classic Parents' and Teachers' Nature Awareness Guidebook by Joseph Cornell (ages 4 to 8).

Check out the great ideas and activities in Earth Child 2000: Earth Science for Young Children—Games, Stories, Activities and Experiments by Kathryn Sheehan and Mary Waidner, PhD. (ages 4 to 8).

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