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Creating a Constellation

  • Planétarium
Create a constellation from a group of stars and invent stories about it
Photo: NASA, ESA and AURA/Caltech

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Description of the activity

Students create their own constellation from a group of stars and invent stories explaining their constellation. They then compare their creations with what other students have thought up and what other cultures have seen in the same group of stars.


By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Define constellation (a pattern formed by a group of stars)
  • Create a constellation using a specific group of stars
  • Make up a brief story about their constellation

Equipment needed by the student

  • Creating a Constellation handout
  • Pencil
  • Blank paper
  • Ursa Major teacher’s sheet (optional)

Equipment necessary for the teacher

  • Creating a Constellation transparency
  • Ursa Major transparency
  • Overhead projector
  • Compiter
  • Overhead projector
  • Multimedia projector
  • PowerPoint: Creating a Constellation


Make copies of the Creating a Constellation handout (one per student). If possible, make a transparency of both this handout and the Ursa Major teacher’s sheet to use in class with an overhead projector.


  1. Ask if students know what a constellation is. Ask them to name a constellation they know and have seen. Ask how they think the constellations got their names. Define constellation.
  2. Distribute the Creating a Constellation handout. Have students observe this group of stars from every angle possible.
  3. Ask students to place a blank sheet of paper over their handout and to draw figures or objects they see in the stars.
  4. Next, have students write a brief story explaining where their constellation came from and how it ended up in the sky. Younger students can present their story orally instead of in writing.
  5. Share with the class the students’ stories and constellations, stressing how different people see different things in the same group of stars. The drawings and stories can be posted on a bulletin board or grouped together in a class book.
  6. Mention that different cultures have seen different patterns in the same group of stars, just as the students did in this activity.
  7. Point out that the group of stars on the handout really exists. It’s the constellation Ursa Major, which contains the Big Dipper. Using an overhead projector, show where the Big Dipper is found in Ursa Major. Strictly speaking, the Big Dipper isn’t a constellation but rather an asterism (a group of stars that evokes a familiar object but forms only part of a constellation).
  8. If you don’t have an overhead projector, you may hand out a copy of the Ursa Major sheet to students. Or reproduce the drawing on the blackboard and have students copy it on a sheet of paper.


Adapted from: Astro Adventures by Dennis Schatz and Doug Cooper. Copyright © 1994 by the Pacific Science Center.

Category of activity

  • Preparatory activity

Sub-category of activity

  • Class activity

Grade level

  • Elementary cycle one
  • Elementary cycle two

Number of students per group

Individual activity


Two 50-minute periods

Activity Sheets

Creating a Constellation[PPT - 251 KB - 1 page]
Creating a Constellation[PDF - 394.94 KB - 12 pages]

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