Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.
Summer is a wonderful time to teach children about the night sky. It’s great fun to identify and observe the various constellations of stars. Incorporating a child’s natural curiosity with a clear and dark evening can lead to memorable summertime learning.
This is a lesson that is much better conducted in a backyard, apartment rooftop, or city park than in any classroom! You can start with a very helpful book about astronomy for children, Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey. It can be found on Amazon.com, or at your local library. My own children used this for years and loved it!
A good way to start is to help your child locate the Big Dipper in the northern sky. On a clear, dark night it’s easy to identify. Note that the second star on the Dipper’s handle is very bright. This is because it’s really two stars, very close to each other. Ask if your child can see the two stars.
In the Dipper’s “pan,” the two outer stars always point toward Polaris, the Pole Star, also known as the North Star. Our earth’s rotation makes it appear that the other stars are moving around at night. However, Polaris always remains in the same place, and has been used as a navigational mainstay for centuries.
When your child can comfortably find the Big Dipper, draw an outline of it in a notebook and have her add small colored stick-on stars to the outline to form the Big Dipper constellation. Add a star above for Polaris.
Try to help her identify a new constellation each week, all summer long. As she learns new ones, add them to the notebook.