Constellations are pictures that people have imagined in the patterns of the stars. They are now accepted scientific ways of organizing the night sky. This idea that a scientific model could begin with imagination might seem surprising, but should it be? Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He was pretty smart. This activity, based on “Constellation Creation” from Boston Children’s Museum’s Beyond the Chalkboard curriculum, invites you and your children to look at star patterns and imagine your own new constellations, while practicing STEM skills like observing, recognizing patterns and thinking creatively. This kind of creative activity encourages children to make personal connections to objects in the sky, and to seek out their new constellation when you look up together at the sky at night.
- Pens or pencils
- Markers, crayons, or paint and brushes
- Find some images online of constellations with their pictures drawn over them. Click here for one site with good examples. Many constellations we are familiar with were invented a long time ago by people looking up at the sky, connecting the stars they saw with pictures they imagined. Ask your child if the star patterns you found online remind them of the images drawn over them. Can they imagine other pictures in these stars? What if they could rename the constellations? Would they still be named after the same animals and people they are now? Or does your child see different pictures when they connect the dots?
- Copy some constellation patterns (dots representing the stars, only, without the overlaid pictures) on a piece of paper. You could also visit Beyond the Chalkboard and use the free Star Sheets included with that activity (click here for those; and click here for an identification guide). Try to find many different constellations, so you have lots of options to choose from.
- Now, invent your own new constellations! They could be people, animals, things – whatever you can imagine. Make some constellation drawings and give those new constellations names. Make as many as you’d like, then look up in the sky for your new constellation at night!