Space STEM: Marshmallow Constellations

Space STEM: Marshmallow Constellations

Marshmallow Constellations

Marshmallow Constellations is one of the activities taken from our Space section. The purpose of the activity is for children to learn more about stars and constellations and develop their understanding of the solar system. In doing so, they will apply engineering and mathematics skills to create their constellations.

A great starting point for this activity is with a bit of star gazing! Perhaps your class will have already visited a planetarium or have some knowledge of different constellations. Unfortunately it’s rather difficult to participate in a spot of star gazing during the school day. Therefore we’ve found iPad apps to be the next best thing! Apps such as ‘Star Walk’, ‘Solar Walk’ and ‘Star Chart’ give the user the ability to scroll across the night sky, exploring the many different constellations as they go. In fact, some of these apps display a faint picture of the constellation beneath it. Another useful feature is the ability to type in your location in order to see an accurate representation of the current night sky in your area. Another starting point for this activity is with a book. See our book and app recommendations here.

Once the children have had a chance to explore the sky, bring the class back together for a discussion, giving them opportunities to share their observations and ask questions. It soon became clear that the children I was working with found it difficult to separate astronomy from astrology. This led to an interesting discussion about the differences between the two areas. An important element of all learning is to frame it within the context of the ‘real world’ . We did this by having a quick look at the profiles of famous astronomers such as Nicolas Copernicus and Galileo Galilei. For more information about space careers and to view these profiles click here.

A few facts worth mentioning:

  • Astronomers divide the night sky into 88 constellations.
  • The sun, moon and planets travel along the ecliptic path.
  • The 13 constellations they pass through are the stars of the zodiac.

Then it was time to get started. I laid out the equipment on each table and provided the children with cards representing each constellation. Then I left them to it!

Although simple to resource, the children found it surprisingly difficult to form each constellation accurately. It was certainly a good test of their engineering skills! They took an interest in the shapes within each constellation. Some children challenged themselves to look at the picture and estimate how many cocktail sticks and marshmallows they thought they would need. This not only added an extra maths element to the activity but also helped to cut down on unnecessary wastage.

Finally we painted a large piece of card back and splattered white paint across it to represent the night sky. Then it was time to add our constellations to it and take photos of our work!

For more space activities click here.

For space books and apps click here.

For space careers and inspiring people click here.

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