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  • The Science Learning Hub has lots of resources for primary teachers related to the night sky in the Planet Earth and Beyond strand of the New Zealand Curriculum.

    The night sky is fascinating to talk about with children. It evokes a sense of wonder and mystery. Have a look through these resources for some ideas.

    Space – viewing with our own eyes

    Before radio, television or GPS existed, people would look at the night sky as a means of entertainment, to tell stories or to determine direction. The following resources use objects students can see in the night sky without the aid of a telescope.

    Navigating without instruments

    Wayfinding or navigating without instruments is about ocean voyaging using the stars, the Sun, the Moon, the ocean swells and other natural signs for clues to direction and location. See also the resources under Tātai arorangi.

    Navigating without instruments – introductory article with links to media, articles and student activities

    Navigating with Sun, Moon and planets – article

    The celestial sphere – article

    The star compass – kāpehu whetū – article

    Constellations in the night sky – activity

    Natural satellites

    A natural satellite is any celestial body in space that orbits around a larger body. Moons are called natural satellites because they orbit planets.

    Natural satellites – article

    Our solar system – revolutionary ideas – article

    Observing natural satellites – activity

    Spotting satellites – activity

    Space – viewing with instruments

    Some times we need to rely on instruments to see things in space. Discover a few of these amazing objects in the Solar System and beyond. 

    The Sun and white dwarfs – article

    How a solar system is formed – article

    Space plasma – article

    Red giants in the night sky – article

    Comets – article

    To catch a comet the Rosetta Mission – article

    Visiting space

    The official beginning of space is 100 km above the Earth’s surface. Rockets launched into space can be suborbital (brief visit to space) or orbital (staying in motion around the Earth) or can escape Earth’s gravity to travel deeper into space. The International Space Station orbits at a height of about 360 km. 

    Getting rockets into space – article

    Investigating rockets – introduction – introductory article with links to media, articles and student activities

    How do we know what is out there?

    Look up into the sky at night. Just with your eyes, you can often see the Moon, planets, stars – even a couple of galaxies outside the Milky Way. With a telescope, you can see a lot more – fainter and more distant stars, dust clouds, galaxies. But there is a lot you can’t see, even with a powerful telescope, because not everything in space gives out light we can detect with our eyes. Find out how astronomers study space from a distance

    Space revealed – introductory article with links to media, articles and student activities

    Planet hunting – article

    Exploring with telescopes – activity which uses an interactive and an online or paper-based quiz to learn about different types of telescopes and the types of space objects they are best suited to view.

    Hunt the planet – activity

    Is anything out there? – activity

    This is one of the great attractions of this subject; there is always something more to learn, a deeper insight to achieve. It’s rarely a matter of, oh well, I understand this, let’s move on.

    Professor Denis Sullivan

    Tātai arorangi

    Māori ancestors possessed a wealth of astronomical knowledge that they referred to as tātai arorangi. See also some of the resources under Navigating without instruments.

    Revitalising Māori astronomy – article

    Tātai arorangi – video

    Te kāhui o Matariki – image

    The Matariki star cluster – article

    Naming the whetū in te kāhui o Matariki – activity

    General information

    Stars – image

    Close shave with Asteroid 2011 MD – article

    Lonely planets wander galaxy – article

    Investigating satellites – introduction – introductory article with links to media, articles and student activities

    Satellite fall to Earth over Pacific – article

    Solar flares hurl charged particles at Earth – article

    Heritage scientist – Beatrice Hill Tinsley

    New Zealand cosmologist Beatrice Hill Tinsley was the first female professor of astronomy at Yale University. Her research added to the wide acceptance of the Big Bang theory.

    Read her biography: Beatrice Hill Tinsley

    Use the timeline to read about aspects of Beatrice's life and work, and how her findings changed scientific thinking.

    I used to read the encyclopedia as a kid and wish I could understand and contribute to cosmology.

    Beatrice Hill Tinsley

    Citizen science

    Citizen scientists are volunteers who contribute to scientific projects, usually by collecting or analysing data. The number of opportunities to be involved as citizen scientists continues to grow, and teachers are increasingly using them to make science education more relevant and engaging and to develop students’ science capabilities. Explore these citizen science projects below:

    Related collections

    Our collection Exploring space – resources for years 5/6 contains a selection of space resources for Middle Primary.

    3, 2, 1...Lift off! is a collection that supports the House of Science 3, 2, 1...Lift off! kit which uses rockets as a context for learning about forces. This collection of resources covers NZC levels 1–4.

    Log in to make one or both of these collections part of your private collection, just click on the copy icon. You can then add additional content, notes and make other changes.

    Useful links

    For a wide range of Moon resources see the Our Moon Pinterest board that we created.

    See the Otago Museum Astronomy learning bundle – linked to levels 3–5 of the New Zealand curriculum, it includes worksheets, video activities and crafts to make cross-curricular links. Some crafts are suitable for level 1–2 learners.

      Published 18 June 2015, Updated 19 February 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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