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.
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
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
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
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
Stars – image
Investigating satellites – introduction – introductory article with links to media, articles and student activities
Satellite fall to Earth over Pacific – 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 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:
- Planet Hunters (Read the case study and accompanying unit plan to see how one year 7/8 teacher used this and Agent Exoplanet with his class)
- Agent Exoplanet (Read the case study and accompanying unit plan to see how one year 7/8 teacher used this and Planet Hunters with his class)
- Globe at Night (Read the case study and accompanying unit plan to see how one year 5/6 teacher used this with her class)
- Loss of the Night
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.
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.