The night sky is fascinating. It is also filled with legend, lore, and chances to educate the next generation on the vast beauty of our starry skies.
Books are an amazing way to catch the interest of kids. Here are three wonderful Kidlit books and one activity to help Homeschoolers & Distance Learners discover Constellations and Star Legends in the night sky (in a memorable way).
Constellations and Star Legends for Kids: Book Recommendations
Our first books is the Story of the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper in a book called The Story of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor: A Roman Constellation Myth
Every night of summer there are dramatic stories being played out in the night sky. The stories include a great bear, a little bear, a king, a queen, and their daughter. One of the oldest star groups, called a constellation, is made up of seven stars, known as the Big Dipper or the Great Bear.
The Cherokee Indians believe the handle of the Big Dipper represents a band of hunters pursuing the bear from the time he is high in the sky in spring until he sets below the horizon in autumn.
In Greek legend, Zeus and Callisto, a mortal woman, had a son called Arcas. Hera, Zeus’s very jealous wife, turned Callisto into a bear. One day while Arcas was out hunting, found a bear. Not realizing it was his mother, he shot at the bear and luckily missed her. When he discovered that his mother was the bear, he was struck with grief. Coming to his son’s aide, Zeus rescued Callisto and placed both her and their son Arcas, who he turned into a bear, into the sky together. Callisto is Ursa Major (the Great Bear), and Arcas is Ursa Minor (the Little Bear). There they will stay forever.
To the left of the bears is another eventful story from Greek/Roman Legend
The Boastful Queen or The Story of Cassiopeia by Thomas Kingsley Troupe
Once there was a very boastful Queen who reigned over the country of Ethiopia. Her name was Cassiopeia ( Kass-ee-oh-PEE-uh). Together with her husband Cepheus, they had a very beautiful daughter Andromeda.
“My daughter’s beauty is much greater than all of your Nereid daughter’s combined,” boasted the Queen to Nereus, god of the sea.
Nereus was so angry that he sent Cetus, a sea monster, to ravage their kingdom.
They were advised by an oracle that the sacrifice of their daughter Andromeda to Cetus was the only way to appease the god.
Sadly, the king and queen duly chained Andromeda to a rock by the sea. Perseus, son of Zeus, came to the rescue just in time, swooping down upon his winged horse Pegasus. Perseus was able to save Andromeda from her cruel fate by revealing the hideous head of Medusa to Cetus, which instantly turned the great monster to stone.
Queen Cassiopeia didn’t escape the wrath of the gods, however. Upon the queen’s death, she was banished into the night sky where she sits and suffers chained to her throne and forced to hang upside down for half the year.
Sitting just beside her is king Cepheus and their daughter Andromeda which can be seen in the autumn.
There is one more book in the series that we’ve been reading called The Story of Orion: A Roman Constellation Myth by Thomas Kingsley Troupe.
The activity below lends itself nicely to all three books.
Constellations and Star Legends for Kids: Sky Navigation Activity
Now it’s time to find those stories in the sky. Astronomers, people who study the stars, measure the distance between stars in degrees. The easiest way to navigate your way through the night sky is to use your hand as a ruler. Hold your arm outstretched towards the sky. Really reach up.
5 degrees is 3 fingers.
10 degrees is a fist.
25 degrees is your thumb and pinky extended.
Use the big stars and star groups as guides. First, let’s find the big dipper. It’s just below the North Star. Can you see the group of stars which look like a cooking pot? The square is the face of the bear and the handle of the pot is a long tail of the bear.
To find the Little Bear or the Little Dipper, go to the upper left-hand star of the pot of the Big Dipper. From there work your way to the left 28 degrees. You will arrive at Polaris, the last star in the tail of the Little Dipper.
Cassiopeia, The Queen: Following a line from the third star, left, in the handle of the big dipper through Polaris of the Little Dipper for a total of 55 degrees, will lead you to the wobbly w-shape of Cassiopeia.
Cepheus, The King is a house-shaped structure found between Polaris and the end star of Cassiopeia.
Constellations and Star Legends: Constellation Mandalas
What you’ll need
4 pieces of 12 x 12 dark blue cardboard stock
An Awl to punch holes with
A Sharpie marker
Glitter Glue Pens
A dinner plate
Place the edge of the dinner plate on the corner of the cardboard.
2. Mark with a pencil on all four corners.
3. Repeat with all four pieces of cardboard stock.
4. Cut out your mandala circles.
5. On each circle place a constellation pattern with a sharpie marker.
The Little Dipper or Little Bear
The Big Dipper or The Great Bear
6. Taking your punch tool, a hammer, and a self-healing mat, put out your constellations in your mandala circles.
7. Taking your punch tool, a hammer, and a self-healing mat, put out your constellations in your mandala circles.
8. Using your glitter glue markers, decorate the edges of your mandalas.
You can punch a hole, place a string and hang them or do what we did and that was to make a table runner by just placing on our tabletop.
What is your favorite constellation?
ONE MORE THING–
Making reading an adventure and not a \”task/ chore/requirement\” during the summer months is a great way to help them increase the desire to learn and keep them interested as well. Setting aside time as a family and selecting a summer reading list is a great way to not only make the idea of reading more exciting but also to involve kids in voicing their thoughts and options on what it is that they would like to read.
summer reading for reluctant readers
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