Shapes In the Sky

[Activity 2 from the original PASS volume Activities for the School Planetarium.]

Grade Levels: K-2

In this activity the students learn how constellations were invented by creating their own constellations. The activity allows the students to develop this concept in easy steps, from observing simple shapes in everyday objects, to imagining shapes marked by stars in the sky.

Organization: Individual Task, Small Group Reasoning Level: Egocentric to Concrete Activity Strategy: Synthesizing and Open-Ended

Behavioral Objectives: By the end of the lesson, students should be able to:

    1. Recognize simple shapes in a complex picture.

    2. Locate a group of stars in the planetarium sky that, if connected, would produce a given shape.


For the class

    • cardboard cutouts of various simple shapes (circles, squares, rectangles, bows, triangles, etc.)

    • flashlight pointer For each student

    • pencil

    • copy of the two data sheets (masters below)

    • clipboard or other hard writing surface


Distribute the data sheets and ask the class if anyone can find a triangle, a circle, a rectangle, a square, a plus sign, a bow tie, “V”, or “W” in the picture. Tell them to circle the shapes they find and draw a line from the circles to the corresponding shapes at the top of the page. Another option is to have the students use a different color crayon for each shape and color in the shape rather than circle it.

Hand out the second data sheet. Ask the students to make a shape by connecting the dots together. Tell them to find at least three shapes, such as a triangle, a square, and a rectangle.

Invite the students to do the same thing with the stars in the planetarium sky. Divide the class into teams of three or four students, give one cardboard shape to each team. Ask the teams to find their shape in the sky. After a few minutes, ask volunteers to point out their shapes to the rest of the class.

Conclude the lesson by encouraging the students to try to find their shapes in the real night sky.