How to Teach Constellations to Your Kids This Summer
Oh, summer nights! They bring us right back to memories of eating ice cream on the porch, watching a baseball game, or playing with friends. These are the carefree nights filled with experiences that you and your kids will remember for a lifetime. Summer is also the perfect time to look into how to teach constellations to children.
Treat your kids to a late night (they don’t have to worry about waking up for school, after all!). Grab some blankets and head out to your backyard for a fun, educational evening gazing at the night sky.
Here are some tips to make it the perfect night:
Choose a Moonless Night
A bright, full moon may be beautiful, but moonlight can make it more difficult to see the stars in the sky. Choose a clear night during the new moon when it is just a sliver in the sky and won’t obscure your view. You can take this opportunity to teach your kids about the phases of the moon.
Constellations are groups of stars that form a pattern when viewed from Earth. Many of the constellations we still look for today were discovered and named over 2,000 years ago by the Ancient Greeks. Explain to your kids that viewing constellations is just like playing connect the dots—in the sky!
Before you go stargazing, try these fun activity sheets from Ready Jet Go! on PBS Kids. Kumon is a proud sponsor of Ready Jet Go!, an animated series that teaches kids about science and astronomy. Your kids can “connect the stars” in several constellations on paper before they see them in the night sky. Bring the completed sheets with you on your stargazing adventure to help guide your experience.
Start With the Big Dipper
And now for one of the most popular constellations in every guide on how to teach constellations to kids, the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper is one of the easiest constellations to spot, and a great starting point to find others. Once you find the Big Dipper, follow the two stars at the end of the cup to see the North Star, Polaris. Polaris is the final star in the handle of the Little Dipper, also known as Ursa Minor. If that’s all you spot in the night sky, you’ve already learned a lot!
Did you know that the Big Dipper is actually just a small part of a larger constellation called Ursa Major? Like its smaller counterpart Ursa Minor, Ursa Major is in the shape of a bear. See if you can connect the stars for the entire Ursa Major constellation.
After you’ve found Ursa Major, your options are endless. You can try to find more constellations, like Draco, which is most visible in July. Or you can look for planets, which may appear at first to be stars, but don’t have the same twinkle. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to catch a meteor shower!
The fun doesn’t have to stop just because of a rainy or cloudy day. If you can’t see the stars in the sky, watch an episode of Ready Jet Go! and get transported into the stars yourself! Jet and his friends Sydney, Sean, and Mindy will take you with them as they explore space.
Learning opportunities are all around us, including in the sky! Summer is an exciting time to explore the world around us. Now that you know how to teach constellations to kids, discover 6 more ways to make summer learning fun.