Shoebox Planetarium or Constellation Viewer

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Inside the Shoebox – Viewing The Constellation Scorpius


  • Detailed Instructions (pdf)
  • Constellations (one set using the front pages only) (pdf)
    • these will be used for the viewer
  • Constellation cards (photocopied front to back) (pdf)
    • cut these apart as a reference to help you identify the constellations
    • paperclip and keep inside the shoebox for storage
  • Large Paper Clips
  • Index Cards
  • Glue Sticks
  • Scissors
  • Metal Math Compass
  • Foam or Cork Board
  • Shoebox
  • Black construction paper
  • Duct Tape
  • Stickers

Steps 1 & 2: Cut out constellations and glue each to an index card, and then to a piece of black construction paper. Triple layering will make the cards more sturdy and let less light through. Using a metal math compass, poke a hole for every star in the constellation, using the foam board or cork as your backing.

20150526_140837Steps 3 & 4: Make an opening on one end of the shoebox slightly smaller than an index card. Trim the cards to fit inside  of your shoebox and line up the stars to make sure none are blocked. Use 2 paper clips to keep in place.

2015-05-26 14.16.4220150526_141005Steps 5 & 6: Make an opening on the opposite side of the shoebox so you can see inside the box. Put the lid on and decorate with duct tape. Change the cards to practice identifying the constellations. How many can you find in the night sky?

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Constellations (Star Lab) page added

Image Source: Star Lab
Image Source: Star Lab

I created a page of resources for stars, constellations, and myths to use with our Star Lab experience. You can also find information on Star Lab rentals and training. In NJ, Raritan Valley Community College offers workshops in the Summer and Fall.

We spend four sessions in the Star Lab:

  • Day One – Intro to the Star Lab – Using the Dippers & Cassiopeia to find your way
  • Day Two – Perseus & Fall Constellations
  • Day Three – Orion & Winter Constellation
  • Day Four – Summer/Spring Constellation & wrap up

Constellations (Star Lab) Page – (link)

Make Your Own Planisphere (Star Wheel)

Planisphere Supplies
Planisphere Supplies

I have my 6th graders make and decorate their own planispheres for our astronomy unit. It is a quick and inexpensive way to provide planispheres for all of your students, and you don’t have to worry about running out or ordering ahead/enough for each class. When it comes time to lining up the Star Wheel and inserting the brass brad, I do that part for the students so that it lines up correctly. Students will come up to my desk when they are ready and I assembly it for them pretty quickly.


  • Manilla folder
  • Scissors
  • Brass brad
  • Glue stick
  • Star Wheel Holder (pdf)
    • Additional Star Holders & Wheels (link)
  • Star Wheel – laminated
  • Metal Math Compass


  1. Fold the template along the (horizontal) dotted line
  2. Glue the template to the manilla folder
    • the folded template wraps around the folded edge of the folder
  3. Cut out the shape of the template
  4. Cut out the window – be careful not to cut both layers
    • I use the toilet seat and toilet lid analogy 😉
  5. Cut out the star wheel
  6. Insert the star wheel into the star wheel holder
  7. Find Polaris
  8. Center the Star Wheel, and with the pointed end of the compass, make a hole through Polaris and the back of the manilla folder
    • Be sure that the wheel can spin freely
  9. Insert metal brad & fasten
  10. Enjoy your new planisphere!



Additional Resources:

  • Using a planisphere worksheet (pdf)
  • How to use a planisphere (video)


Quiz, Quiz, Trade – Apollo Missions

Recently, I tried the “Quiz, Quiz, Trade” (QQT) method of review to help my students study for their Apollo Missions assessment. How does it work? See the video below:



Before starting the activity, I modeled how to ask, answer, and trade using student volunteers. We also discussed ‘quizzing etiquette’. What do you do if your partner is stuck? How can you give clues to help jog their memories? What are some things that you should or should NOT say if someone can’t answer the question, even with hints? After you go over the answer with your partner, are there any tips to help your partner remember the answer? I stressed the importance of helping each other learn. It is not just about getting the answers right or wrong and no one ‘wins’ if they answered the most questions correctly.

Each student was given one question to start the activity. Because I had more questions than students in my class, after a student makes 3 trades, I had the students hand in/trade their cards with me to introduce new questions into the mix as needed. Some students will answer more questions than others, and that is ok. The students quizzed/traded with each other for about 20 minutes. While they were quizzing each other, they kept track of which questions they answered correctly, and which ones they needed to work on using this handout: Quiz, Quiz, Trade Numbers  (pdf)

Sample Question Card
Sample Question Card

For the second half of the review activity, I divided the class into two teams. I would randomly pick one question to ask each team. Before I asked the question, I announced the number of the question I was going to ask them. The students on each team then looked at their sheets to see who had that answered that numbered question correctly and chose one person to come up to answer the question. If no one had the numbered question answered correctly (or did not have a chance to answer it during QQT), they would volunteer a ‘tribute’ to try to answer the question. If the first team answers correctly after I read the question to the class, they earned a point. If answered incorrectly, the other team had a chance to steal and earn the point. We really enjoyed playing QQT and I plan on using it again in a variety of ways.

This is also a great way to practice vocabulary words. Using index cards, students can write the vocab word on one side and the definition on the other. You can also use it for identification skills – show a picture on one side, and the identification on the other. For example, one side can have a picture of a beaker, and the other side will have the word ‘beaker’ to practice identifying lab equipment. Other ideas include: plant identification, constellation identification, cloud identification, metric conversions or abbreviations, etc…