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Finding Your Way

Journal Entry - Take out your science journal and answer the following question(s) (use drawings as appropriate):
How are constellations used for navigation and calendars?

I must go down to the sea again
To the lonely sea and sky
And all I ask is a tall ship
And a star to steer her by.

Sea Fever by John Masefield

Before GPS systems and the art of mapmaking, travelers used the stars to help them find their way from place to place.
Sailors used the stars to help them guide their ships at night. African-Americans used the Big Dipper (which led to the North Star) to help them find their way to freedom. The pioneers also used the constellations to help them find their way West.


  • Pictures of constellations
  • Blindfold


  1. Have someone set up a course using the constellation pictures.
  2. Three friends work together. One person will be the navigator. One person will be blindfolded. The third person will walk with the blindfolded person for safety.
  3. Navigator talks blindfolded student through course without using constellation names.
  4. Take blindfold off of student. Navigator gives directions using constellation names.


  • Compare the time it took for the student to go through course both times.
  • How did using the constellations help in the navigation?

What is the Date?

People in ancient cultures noticed that certain constellations appeared in the sky only in certain times of the year. For example, the Egyptians counted the number of days between the appearances of Sirius. They found that there was 365 days in each year. By dividing the year into 365, the Egyptians created a calendar. They noticed that Sirius always came back a few days before the annual flooding of the Nile River, so this helped with the planting of crops.

Ancient Time

Which do you think was more accurate, a calendar made from the moon’s cycle or a calendar made from the cycle of the stars? Create your own calendar based on either of these cycles. You can name your own months and have whatever number of days in each month you choose. Would your calendar work? It might be helpful to do some research on how the ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, and Chinese developed their calendars. Use this Web site for your research.


Visit Pioneer Library and search for the e-Media video "Space Files-- Exploration: Observing the Night Sky"


solar_system_image size_motion_distance_image microorganism_image Heat_light_and_sound_image

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 6th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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