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.