Geography Class for the Sky

Learn to find your way around on a map of outer space, by making your own map collection.

In this course, I take students on a guided tour of the night sky, and I show how to draw and recognize most of the important constellations (or at least those visible from the United States, or from similar latitudes).   I provide blank maps (with stars but no labels), and then together we connect the dots to make recognizable and memorable stick figures, and we give names to the shapes.   Along the way, we see the different ways in which the constellations move across the various regions of the sky overhead, and we learn various ways we can tell directions from the stars.  After drawing their own maps and building up their own map collection, students see how the maps fit together into a "celestial sphere", or a single "world map" of all of outer space.  Finally, students make their own planisphere, or "constellation calendar", for predicting which constellations will be in which part of the sky at which time.

In a nutshell, students will learn...

  • the names and shapes all of the bright constellations that you can see in the night sky (from the United States).
  • how to tell direction at night from the stars.
  • a few dim treasures to hunt for in dark skies.

This course contains...

  • 5½ hours of video.
  • 6 regional maps of the night sky.
  • 2 craft projects involving the entire "celestial sphere".

(Note:  When I tell the fable of Andromeda, I illustrate the story with a collection of classical statues and paintings, and there are a few topless figures.  I tried to keep it  innocuous, and there is nothing you wouldn't see in a fine art museum, but if you are concerned about such things, you may wish to preview the first lesson in "Section 5:  The Andromeda Story".)

Using This Course in a Classroom

This course is aimed at children, and I have tried to make it useful in two ways.  I address children directly in the videos, and I have tried to make it so that children can watch the course by themselves and learn independently.  But I also hope this can be useful to homeschool teachers or other educators looking for curricular guidance.  This course is my way of presenting my curriculum on constellations.

This course primarily involves drawing and labeling shapes on worksheets, and it is aimed especially at children in roughly 3rd-5th grade.  I had the most fun and most success using this method of teaching the constellations with that age group.  With some tweaking, I think it can also be adapted for slightly older or younger children.  If you are a teacher, I suggest using a digital projector to shine the worksheets onto a whiteboard, and then drawing on the whiteboard.  That's how I did it, and it worked beautifully.

In a nutshell, this course is for...

  • children interested in learning to recognize the constellations.
  • homeschool parents or other educators who want their students to feel at home under the night sky.
  • anyone who wants to learn to find their way around on a map of outer space, and is willing to do so by drawing on worksheets.

Course Outline

  • 1


  • 2

    The Archer and the Scorpion

  • 3

    The Summer Triangle

  • 4

    The Winter Hexagon

    • Introduction

    • Orion the Hunter

    • The Dogs and the Rabbit

    • The Bull and the Goats

    • The Gemini Twins

    • The Equator of Stars

    • The Hexagon

    • Quiz: The Winter Hexagon

  • 5

    The Andromeda Story

    • Introduction

    • The Great Square and the Super-Duper Dipper

    • Andromeda and Pegasus

    • Perseus, Cetus, and Fickle Stars

    • Decorations and Dim Stuff

    • Quiz: The Andromeda Story

  • 6

    The Lion's Den

  • 7

    The Map of Outer Space

    • The School of Athens

    • Making Celestial Globes

    • Figuring Out Which Half of the Celestial Sphere is up in the Sky

    • Making a Planisphere

    • Using a Planisphere

    • Further Celestial Explorations