Star Constellations

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12435

Do you watch clouds and make animals out of them? How about stars? Ancient peoples imagined figures outlined by stars. They also used stars to find their way around the world! Become a real stargazer!


Space Science and Astronomy

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Today, we rely on GPS technology to help us find our way to wherever it is we want to go. Yet, hundreds of years ago, when the early explorers set sail across the seas, they had nothing but primitive maps and the stars as their guide. Do you think you could find your way home from an unfamiliar place simply by looking at the stars?

After studying the positions and patterns of the stars, early explorers realized that the stars stayed within the same pattern (constellations) as they moved across the sky (as the earth revolved around the sun) throughout the year.

Before further exploration, if you missed or want to review the previous Space Science lessons, go to the right-hand sidebar and look under Related Lessons.

Early explorers decided to use the stars to navigate because they knew they could rely on the position of the stars.

  • Did you know that the stars in the Northern Hemisphere are different from the Southern Hemisphere?

You see different stars based on where you live. Visible stars can also change during different seasons, based on your location relative to the sun.

look at the stars

As people studied more about the stars, they created star maps. These maps showed the brightest visible stars.

star map

The more they looked at the night sky, the more they started to see patterns in the star maps, and created constellations. Constellations are stars that seem to outline a distinct shape in the sky. As of 2017, there were 88 recognized constellations.


Some constellations represent, or are named after, mythological creatures, while others are named after famous men and women from real life and legend. You might have heard of Orion, a constellation that represents a Greek hunter. The Big Dipper is part of the Ursa Major constellation, a constellation based on a bear.

These constellations were tracked and studied so that early travelers could count the days and changes in the seasons, and the North Star was used as the primary point for navigation. While constellations may have many purposes on Earth, they are also beautiful to observe.

Reflect on the following question with a parent or teacher:

  • Why do you think ancient people named and organized the stars around stories?
  • What interesting ideas did you come up with?

In the Got It? section, you will choose one constellation to study in detail!

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