Connecting the Stars: Designing Our Own Constellations, 3rd-6th Grade

Probable Duration: three to four 45-minute class period

Aesthetic Issue:  How peoples have used implied lines and their imagination to make sense of the stars in the night sky and how artists have chosen to represent the night sky in their work.

Art History Reinforcement: Greco Roman, Ancient Maya, Native American constellation myths, and Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night

 Subject Correlation: Science, Social Studies

Vocabulary: Implied Line, Painting, Collage, Constellation, Nebula

Teacher Prep:

  • Obtain copy of Once Upon a Starry Night: A Book of Constellations, by Jacqueline Mitton, access to the WebSite, HubbleSite, and an image of  Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Tsing-Fang Chen’s Burning With Cosmic Rhythm.
  • Pre-tear tissue paper for the night sky collages


  • Large pieces of blue and purple construction paper
  • Tissue paper in colors of the night sky, purple, blue, black, etc.
  • Tempera paint in gold and white
  • Chalk
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Computer Projector hooked up to computer or computer lab
  • Overhead Projector
  • Needle tool
  • Black Construction Paper
  • Tracing Paper
  • Student Writing Paper


  • Think about the night sky.  Close your eyes and imagine that you are looking at the night sky.  What do you see?  Describe colors, shapes, anything that stands out.
  • Many artists have been inspired by the night sky.  What do you think it means to be “inspired”?
  • Today we’re going to look at images of the night sky that were captured by scientists and images painted by artists.  Later on you will get to make your own picture of the night sky.


First Period:  Use the laptop projector to show the students the HubbleSite.Org movie, Night Sky, which shows the night sky and constellations that can be seen at any given time.  Emphasize how ancient peoples used implied lines to come suggests shapes and patterns in the stars that became constellations.

  • Discuss and define the word constellation.  Pause and point out the aspects of the movie that illustrate the idea of implied lines.
  •  Direct the students to come up with a definition for the word, inspiration.  Talk about how artists can be inspired by other artists, science, their own lives, etc.
  •  Have the students analyze the prints of Starry Night and Burning With Cosmic Rhythm for evidence of implied lines.
  •  Demonstrate how students can begin making their own night sky collages with construction paper, liquid starch, and tissue paper.

Second Period: 

  1. Review the previous lesson.  Which constellation do they remember?  Why, what about it stood out to them?
  2. Read a couple of the constellation stories to them again.
  3. Use the needle tool to make holes in the black paper while the students watch.  The paper should be up on the overhead and the lights in the classroom turned low.  Direct the light towards the board.  As you make holes in the paper, it will look like glowing stars up on the board.  Students can be called on to use a dry erase marker to connect the implied lines from star to star, making a constellation.
  4.  Explain that today they will continue to work on their night sky pictures by painting stars on top of the collage.  Emphasize that later they will be using lines, from star to star, like a dot-to-dot to create their own constellation creatures.   The more stars they add, the more choices they will have about where to put their constellations later on.
  5. Pass out the gold and white tempera in small cups, one for each table.

Third Period:

  1. Review what the students have learned up to this point. Emphasize that a constellation can be a magical person, a magical animal, or a magical object.  Each student gets to invent his or her own constellation.
  2.  Demonstrate how to lay tracing paper over a finished night sky scene and imagine at least three different constellations.  This will give the students options.  Have the students choose one constellation out of the three and use white string and glue to show the constellation’s implied lines
  3. Each student should also be given a piece of writing paper.  On their paper they will write the name of their constellation and three important attributes

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