This article explores light pollution and practical ways to minimise it. Readers are introduced to key science ideas including the Bortle scale (a way to measure the brightness of the night sky for a particular location), animal migration and astronomy (galaxies, nebulae and star clusters).
New Zealand has the largest dark sky reserve in the world – Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – with a second reserve planned in south Wairarapa. These reserves are valued by professional astronomers, tourists and New Zealanders who want to stargaze for research and for fun.
The article also makes connections with tātai arorangi (Māori astronomical knowledge) – with information about Tautoru (also recognised as Te Hau o Rua) and Matariki.
Check your school resource area for the article from the 2019 level 4 Connected journal Seeing Beyond, download it as a Google slide presentation or order it from the Ministry of Education.
The teacher support material (TSM) can be downloaded from TKI (Word and PDF files available). It has two learning activities that support science and technology – The night sky and Learning about light – along with resource links.
Connected author and teacher Matt Boucher used the online citizen science project Planet Hunters and Agent Exoplanet within a year 7/8 unit on light. Read the case study and accompanying unit plan, with activities, to find out how he modelled the transit of an exoplanet and the impact of this on the star’s light intensity.
Teacher Melissa Coton used the online citizen science project Globe at Night with her year 5/6 class as a way of highlighting a real application for the learning they had been doing about light and its properties. Read the case study and accompanying unit plan, with activities, to find out how she transitioned from learning about light to considering light pollution and its impacts.
Loss of the Night is an international citizen science project that aims to quantify the illumination of the night sky caused by artificial light.
Discover more about tātai arorangi in the article Revitalising Māori astronomy. This article also includes a video and links to star lore and navigation.
Tātai arorangi also features in the recorded PLD webinar Mātauranga Māori.
Navigating by the stars teaches students the cardinal points of a compass and how to use the Sun and star constellations to identify cardinal compass points.
Constellations in the night sky explores cultural legends and star constellations.
How’s your memory? uses traditional tātai arorangi to learn about the star compass.
With less light pollution, there are many great areas for stargazing in New Zealand. The areas below are of particular note:
- Aoraki-Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – the largest gold standard International Dark Sky Reserve in the world. This gained it's dark sky designation in 2012. Find out more here.
- Aotea/Great Barrier International Dark Sky Sanctuary – in 2017, this became the first island in the world to receive International Dark Sky Sanctuary status. Find out more here.
- Stewart Island/Rakiura International Dark Sky Sanctuary – the second island in the world to receive International Dark Sky Sanctuary. Find out more here.
- Wai-iti Recreational Reserve and Tunnicliff Forest, Nelson – in 2020 this become the first International Dark Sky Park in New Zealand. Find out more here.
Find out more The International Dark-Sky Association – the recognised authority on light pollution and one of the leading organisations combating light pollution worldwide. Explore the locations of International Dark Sky Places around the world in this interactive map.
This 2020 New Zealand Geographic article, Let there be night explores how artificial lights affect us and the environment around us.
The Connected journals can be ordered from the Down the Back of the Chair website. Access to these resources is restricted to Ministry-approved education providers. To find out if you are eligible for a login or if you have forgotten your login details, contact their customer services team on 0800 660 662 or email email@example.com.
The Connected series is published annually by the Ministry of Education, New Zealand.