4th Grade, General Program
Unit Lesson (#5 of 6)
Daniel Boone Elementary School is located in the highly diverse neighborhood of West Rogers Park.
Its multicultural diversity is reflected not only in our school’s student body but among its faculty and
staff as well. We are a port of entry for immigrants arriving throughout the year from around the
world, but primarily from countries such as India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Assyria, Korea,
and Mexico. Most of our students speak a language other than English in their homes. Over twenty
different languages are represented in our learning community. Boone is a fine arts magnet cluster
school, so visual, music, and performing arts are very much a part of our daily curriculum. Our
poverty level is above 80%.
Title & Summary: Constellations—Stories in the Sky
This is an extension of a large science unit on the Solar System.
In today’s world and for most of us, the stars are just tiny, bright, shiny objects in the night sky. Not
much attention is focused on stars. What a great contrast from ages ago when stars were an integral
part of people’s every-day lives. They explained their past, their present and predicted their future.
Stars were used as everything from tools to entertainment.
Through the unit, students learn about constellations from two sides—the scientific and the
mythological as they read the stories written by various cultures to explain phenomena they did not
understand. They discover that stars were used as accurate tools for sea navigation and travel over
land and even to predict when the harvest should begin. They familiarize themselves with the most
common constellation patterns and identify their zodiac signs. Throughout the unit, students observe,
describe, question and investigate then write mythical stories of constellations and create their own
constellations to reflect their story ideas.
What can we learn from constellations?
What are constellations and what is their place in space today?
What role have constellations played in various cultures through time?
How has the role of constellations evolved from the past to the present?
Which constellations are most recognized today and why?
How have constellation stories made some constellations more popular/known than others?
Are constellations considered important today?
Student Objectives for Unit:
Students will be able to:
o Explain what are: stars (vs. planets), constellations, constellation boundaries, star patterns
o Explain the elements of myths and how they were used to explain natural occurrences
o Analyze how the scientific principles of constellations were interpreted through myths through
group discussion, writing, and creative products.
o Use observation, description, questioning and investigation, to apply their knowledge of
constellations and constellation mythology to interpret work of art and, later, a Museum work of
art, sculpture (to be identified).
Student Objectives for Lesson
Observe, describe, question and investigate a work of art.
Working in small groups, discuss their ideas with the goal of “finding the story” told by the stars
in the painting or by any other thing they see in it.
As the ancient cultures did, write a myth that captures their ideas about The Starry Night and
then, design a constellation.
Focus Art Work:
The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, 1889, oil on canvas.
Activities and Procedures
1. Teacher reviews the observing, describing, questioning and investigating skills and solicits
examples from class.
2. Students are told that they will once again use these skills. This time they will apply them to a an
oil painting. They are directed to remain silent during the initial observation process (about 2-3
minutes), but they may take notes. A projection of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, is then displayed
on the screen
2. After the initial silent observation period, copies of The Starry Night are distributed to student
groups, and working in groups, students will apply the skills of observation and description,
questioning and investigation.
1. Close your eyes and see yourself in the scene. What’s happening?
2. What do you feel? Smell? Taste, Hear?
3. Where are you?
4. Where do you want to go from where you are?
5. Look around?
6. How does the scene make you feel?
7. Is there a story this painting is trying to tell?
8. Imagine that you live in the little village and are gazing up at the stars. Would these stars
Have any meaning for you? For the people in your village?
9. Would these stars be useful to you, to your village?
10. Have students pose some questions.
3. Students will have time to discuss and brainstorm these questions. They will then collaborate on
writing the story they see/have found, emphasizing:
- boundaries to setting (inside/outside, land/water/,
open space/celestial), country/continent/global,
- features to characters (animals or objects)
- pattern to plot or theme (real/fantasy)
4. Each group designs a constellation representing Starry Night and their story.
5. They present their stories and constellations to the class and explain some of their thinking.
This work will be added to the other stories they have already written in the unit’s previous
Possible extensions being considered
6. Student groups will choreograph the stories they wrote about Starry Night (perhaps to
Don McLean’s Starry, Starry Night?
7. Students will perform dance for selected classrooms and/or their families and administration.
Documentation – Student’s mythologies and constellation designs
If extension #6 is done, the performance will be video taped
Reflection: Too soon for this step.
Through their written and oral work, students will:
-demonstrate their understanding of stars, and star patterns within the Solar System
-explain what constellation are
-explain how constellations were used by ancient and more recent cultures
-write their own myths and design their own constellations
Target Standards: (ISBE Goals listed at end of document)
Science: Understanding Earth’s place in the solar system
Explaining the apparent motion of the stars
Identifying easily recognizable star patterns (e.g. Big Dipper and constellations)
Language Arts: Identifying elements of myths that explain naturally occurring events.
Comparing scientific ideas and their interpretations by cultures across ages.
Use of writing process to develop original stories/myths, and scientific phenomena
Writing original stories
Communication and Fine Arts:
Sharing original writing orally, through visual art, and self-choreographed dance pieces
Listen to and interpret musical selection
Presenting to class and selected audience
Creativity: Creating related visual art, choreographed dances, constructing star finders,
constructing star boxes to project self-created constellations
Apply previously learned mathematical skills and concepts of area, perimeter, clusters, and
graphing to investigate constellation boundaries and star patterns.