The constellations that appear nightly in our skies are the same ones that our ancestors have viewed for millions of years. Constellations are groups of stars that appear to form patterns in the sky, and that can be perceived as figures or designs. In an attempt to better understand the vast world around them, ancient civilizations named and assigned stories to the constellations, many of which are still noted today. Many of the constellations’ names and stories are derived from classical mythology, which makes them a wonderful topic for teaching across the curriculum. Science classes, of course, can easily incorporate the study of constellations into a regular astronomy unit. English and language arts classes can take advantage of students’ enduring love of the Percy Jackson series to learn more about the stories behind the constellations, and perhaps create their own constellation myths. Social studies classes can discuss the importance of constellations to civilizations throughout history, and how various cultures assigned different interpretations to the same star or groups of stars, and which reflected their cultural beliefs and customs.
The viewing of constellations requires no special equipment, just a swath of night sky, a marked star map or guide, and some patience. If cloudy skies or light pollution obscure your night viewing, online alternatives are available and great tools for classroom use. Finding constellations can be a remarkably powerful experience, and a way to remind ourselves that despite our frenzied and full lives, we’re still all part of something much larger and grander than ourselves.
This week’s Joann’s Picks column on the Gateway’s home page, www.TheGateway.org will feature three resources on constellations for different grade ranges. Peggy’s Corner examines the studying of mythology intertwined with the constellations. Both columns stress the value of presenting topics throughout the disciplines. Even through the study of constellations may seem to fit best in a science classroom, resources on The Gateway can help you introduce the topic in a variety of classrooms including English, language arts, math, and history. Additional resources on the topic will be presented and discussed on the Gateway’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Be sure to visit those pages regularly.
Discussions will also continue on last week’s theme of Harry Potter on both pages. All of the weekly Gateway columns and resource selections are archived on the following blog site: http://thegatewayto21stcenturyskills.blogspot.com/.
Resources covered in this week’s columns include:
Subjects: Art, Astronomy, Language Arts
Students choose and research a constellation, then use pictures to help design an accurate bas-relief replica of the constellation. This lesson was produced by Crayola, maker of art supplies. Crayola also offers lesson plans, an online certificate maker, and other resources for educators.
Subjects: Mythology, Astronomy
In this lesson, students will "connect the dots" to form constellations from stars, recognize some famous constellations and the myths behind them, and compare their perspectives to the perspectives of other students and ancient peoples. This lesson is offered by the Sloan Digital Sky Server (SDSS), a project that uses current data to make a map of a large part of the universe. In addition to offering data for astronomers, SDSS also offers educational resources and games for teachers and students.
Constellations in Science and Mythology
Subjects: Art, Writing, Astronomy
This project requires students to research constellations and produce illustrated books suitable for third to fifth grade readers. The books must include the story and mythology behind the constellation, information about the two brightest stars in the constellation, and Messier objects found in the constellation. This lesson was created by Debbie Scheinberg, a high school science teacher at Cherokee High School South in Marlton, New Jersey.
About The Gateway to 21st Century Skills
The Gateway has been serving teachers continuously since 1996. It is the oldest publicly accessible U.S. repository of educational resources on the Web and the oldest continuously operating service of its kind in the world. The Gateway is sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) and supported by over 700 quality contributors. The Gateway to 21st Century Skills is the cornerstone of the Global Learning Resource Connection (GLRC) which is a JES & Co. program.
About Joann Wasik- Author of Joann’s Picks
Joann is the Metadata Cataloger for The Gateway for 21st Century Skills. Her primary responsibilities for The Gateway include locating and cataloging standards-based K-12 lessons and activities for The Gateway, as well as writing the “Joann’s Picks” weekly column. Before joining The Gateway in 2006, Joann had been involved with numerous projects at the Information Institute of Syracuse at Syracuse University, including virtual reference with the Virtual Reference Desk (VRD) project; virtual reference competencies and education with the Digital Reference Education Initiative (DREI) project; and metadata cataloging with the Gateway for Educational Materials (GEM). Her previous experience also includes technology training and positions in academic libraries. She also conducts freelance research for business and educational clients. Joann holds B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English from Boston College, and an M.L.S. degree from Syracuse University.
About Peggy James- Author of Peggy’s Corner
Peggy received her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from The University of Arizona, and continued on to earn her M.Ed. from the U of A as well. She has taught Physical Science and Chemistry at the high school level. She is working toward her endorsement in Gifted Education, and has been actively involved in coaching and volunteering in Odyssey of the Mind and Academic Decathlon. She has a passion for teaching critical thinking and creativity in the classroom. She has done work evaluating and aligning lesson plans to standards as a curriculum consultant with the National Education Association Health Information Network. She is very excited to help create a collaborative environment for educators to discover new resources that will enhance their teaching!
About the GLRC
About JES & Co.
JES & Co., a publicly funded 501(c) (3) education research organization, is a leader in research and deployment of education programs based on open standards. With 20 years of experience in interoperability and portability of educational resources, organizations around the world come to JES & Co. for leadership and guidance on education programs and initiatives. Since its establishment in the early 1990s, JES & Co. has led and managed The Achievement Standards Network (ASN), The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, The Gateway to 21st Century Skills (formerly known as GEM), the Dell Academy, the Intel Student Certification Program, and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning. For more information about JES & Co. or the Global Learning Resource Connection, visit www.JESandCo.org.