Guest blogger Amy Koester of The Show Me Librarian blog returns with the very last post in her monthly series!  This series focuses on weaving STEM principles and concepts into the arts & crafts programs youth services librarians are already doing.  We want to say a great big THANK YOU to Amy for all of her wonderful and inspiring contributions!  We hope you’ve loved them as much as we have.  ~Katie

by Amy Koester

When I was in elementary school, I was one of the kids who signed up for voluntary summer school. I distinctly remember the summer I took a class on astronomy. We learned all about the planets and stars, learned how to read a star chart, and heard stories about the constellations to help us remember their names. I was completely enraptured, and I remember my fellow students feeling that way, too. There’s just something about getting to know the vast, starry sky that makes astronomy magical.

Leo the Lion Constellation Guide

Leo the Lion Constellation Guide

Let the Stars Be Your Guide: Constellation Bookmaking

Intended for school-age audiences

The arts and crafts aspect:

We make books all the time in school-age library crafts. Sometimes we use paper, needle, and thread; sometimes we start from scratch and make the paper; and sometimes we go for a more mixed media, collage-style approach. Regardless of the chosen process, the the supplies are fairly standard. As is the goal: to emphasize that books are as much something kids can create for themselves as they are things to read.

The STEM hack:

Give a theme to the bookmaking by framing the entire activity as part of a program on constellations—astronomy—and the myths used to describe them. I like to start with some oral storytelling surrounding some of the more easily recognizable constellations. You can turn to Greek and Roman mythology to share stories about the twelve constellations of the Zodiac as well as kings, queens, and heroes in the sky. Or, you can look to Native American tradition and tell stories about how the stars got in the sky in the first place. Dim the lights, project a star map if you’ve got one, and get storytelling. When talking about specific stars, make sure to point out which stars appear red or blue, and why.

Now it’s time for the STEAM craft: creating mixed media constellation guidebooks. The supplies:

  • black paper (construction paper or card stock work best because of their heavier weight)
  • safe cutting utensils (kids’ scissors, unbent paper clips, or, for older youth with plenty of supervision, an X-Acto knife)
  • shiny things (aluminum foil, glitter, etc.)
  • tape
  • markers or pens that will write on black paper
  • stapler and/or needle and embroidery floss
  • astronomy books with constellations and star maps

The assembly process is fairly straightforward. Have children choose a constellation. Use pencils to leave faint marks on a sheet of black paper to show the major stars in the constellation. Carefully cut out circles around each star mark; now you’ve got negative space where the shiny stars will go. Allow children to choose how they want to fill in the shining stars. Some options with the supplies listed above:

  • tape aluminum foil to the back of the black paper so it will show through the holes
  • flip over the black paper so you’re looking at the back side, then put a piece of really sticky tape over the holes; flip the paper right-side-up and sprinkle glitter onto the sticky tape

With the stars all shiny, it’s time to take a marker or pen to connect the dots between stars to show the full constellation. Add the name of the constellation to the page, and it’s done. Repeat this process for as many constellations as time allows.

When each child has a set of constellation maps, it’s time to assemble the books. The quickest route is to staple one side of the stack. The alternative, which will take more time but will look more artisan, is to use needle and embroidery floss to sew a binding. Let time and/or age of attendees dictate which method you use.

Now, next time your program-goers look up at the starry sky, they’ll have a personalized constellation book to guide them.


Amy Koester Profile Photo

Amy Koester is the Children’s Librarian at the Corporate Parkway Branch of the St. Charles (MO) City-County Library District. She shares youth services programs and library musings as the Show Me Librarian, and she shares a STEM program every month on the ALSC Blog. She served on the 2014 Newbery Committee.

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