Teaching astronomy in Sunday School

What does making a comet, creating Star Wheels and  drawing constellations have in common?

The Director of Religious Education (DRE) at my church has asked me to do an astronomy presentation next Sunday for the kids.  My audience will probably be 10-20 young people between 5 and 15 years old.  I’ve done the comet making presentation and the Star Wheel activity with my students and other groups, so I’m comfortable with doing those.

Comet Making:  This presentation’s pretty neat.  I make a model of a comet with the

HPUniverse Day 2014

assistance of one audience member.  While combining the ingredients, I talk about the different components of comets and how we know.  This presentation is really centered on the presenters, and the audience members have nothing to show at the end but maybe some knowledge and a dirty snowball.

Star Wheels:  There’s lots of cutting and pasting to make these nice tools  With younger kids, this IMG_1336might be more than a 45 minute Sunday School presentation can accommodate.  Participants leave with a tool they can use to find stars and constellations.  But some of the Star Wheels may only be half-done and there would be little time to show the kids how to use them.

Constellations:    Unlike the two activities above, I’ve not done this one with an audience, and that’s one aspect that is attractive:

constellation dots
What constellation do you see?

it’s something new, unknown, and risky! For the little ones, I have pictures of the constellation art work for Pegasus, Cygnus and Columba with connect the dots to complete the stick-figure constellation.  I could ask the kids to connect, color and imagine a story about their animal.

At the same time the older kids will be invited to create their own constellations.  I’ve created blank constellations with no lines, no art, no names even, for Orion, Scorpius, Leo, Gemini, Pegasus and Ursa Major.  They can connect the dots and/or draw an illustration around the dots and imagine a story to accompany their illustration.

I may start the lesson with my own stick-figure drawing of a different constellation and share one or two stories from different cultures.  Then I’d hand-out the incomplete constellations and as the kids work on them (connecting dots, coloring, imagining) I could tell another story about the introductory constellation, or maybe share several stories about a different constellation.  At the conclusion, I’d ask the kids to share the stories they imagined!

This lesson plan is a work in progress, and I’ll continue preparing up to and including Sunday morning.  Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, recommendations for me.


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