The basics: Sometimes you have to take a minute and just watch the
world around you. Go outside at night. You might want to take a few
blankets because it might be chilly out. Then look up at the stars and
see if you can spot some of the most common constellations, like the
Big Dipper or Orion.
Challenge: Don’t stop at just one or two—find more constellations.
Check out a book about stars from your local library, and then look for
some of those lesser-known groupings. They are just as much fun to
find as the bigger ones.
What better way to celebrate sleeping under the stars (if you haven't yet, click here to register FREE for the Great American Backyard Campout, a fun-filled night right in your own back yard!) then to spend some time actually tracing the constellations in the night sky — it's a grand game of "Connect the Dots!"
On a piece of paper, draw all the different shapes you see in the night sky. Later, refer to a star guide and see if any of your sketches match the constellations listed on the page.
You can also make your own constellation! Cover a sheet of paper with a random assortment of dots. See what shapes you and your child can find among the "stars" on the paper. Don't forget to give names to your constellations! Sometimes constellations come with old folk stories on how they came to appear on the sky. With your own constellations you've named - create a fun or silly story on how your special stars came to be.
Does the sky look the same all night? Investigate this question with your child while camping out!
What You'll Need
What You'll Do
What You Talk About
Spend a whole night under the stars with your kids, spotting constellations, observing the moon and more. Register now to be a part of the Great American Backyard Campout.
The North Star is a star you can count on.
What is so special about the North Star?
It's not the brightest star in the night sky. But it's the one star that's always in the same place. As our planet spins on its axis, all the other stars overhead appear to wheel around a slow merry-go-round. The North Star is right in the center of that merry-go-round.
Does it really show which way is north?
Yes. It hangs right above the North Pole. That's why its other name is Polaris (pol-LAIR-iss). Long ago, sailors and explorers counted on Polaris to guide them after dark. Stargazers still use it to help them line up their telescopes.
When should I look for it?
Go outside on a clear night (or when you're camping!). If you can get away from the city lights, you'll see the starts much better. And if the moon is new or just a sliver, the stars will look extra bright.
Where should I look?
Start by finding the shape of the Big Dipper. It's one of the easiest star pattersn to see. Now look for two starts at the end of the Dipper's cup, farthest from the handle. They point the way to Polaris. Draw an imaginary line through these "pointer" stars straight on to the next bright star. That's the North Star. It's also the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper. Sometimes the Big Dipper will be right side up, sometimes upside down—but this trick always works. Look for the North Star at different times of the night and continue watching it in each season. As the other stars circle around, the faithful North Star will always be there for you.
Be nocturnal, like those flying squirrels! Explore the wonders of the moon with your children! Once outside, ask them:
As a follow up to campout, observe the moon together a few times after sleeping under the stars to learn more about the moon's cycle.
This can be a great activity to either proceed or follow up your moon observations at campout and helps introduce your child to the phases of the moon.
What You'll Need:
What You'll Do:
A lunar month is the time between phases of the moon (ie., from one full moon to the next full moon). Based on your observations, how many days long is a lunar month? What do you notice about the time and direction you recorded in your first and last observations?
Helpful Hints: The moon follows the same approximate path across the sky as the sun but it may rise very early or very late, depending upon its current path. Remember, too, that during the "new moon" phase, there will be no visible moon in the sky.
A shining full moon turns an ordinary night into something special. Shadows stretch into strange long shapes. Silvery light touches everything with magic. It’s a perfect time to go exploring.
Ready for an adventure? A night or two before or after the next full moon (hopefully during your campout event), the moon will still be shining brightly. Just walk around your camping site.
If you can, try to get away from the city lights so the moon won't be outshone. Take a flashlight for safety, but keep it tucked in a pocket unless you really need it. The longer you stay out in the dark, the better your night vision will become—and the more you’ll discover!
Listen for hooting owls, wind in the trees and other night sounds. Lie down and look up at the starry sky. Enjoy the calm and quiet.
For an extra scary effect- tell one of the great campfire ghost stories.
This year’s Great American Backyard Campout is June 22 – the night before a full moon – perfect timing for a moon walk! Register for the Campout FREE and get our full list of fun camping activities you can do with your kids.
1Content and images from the book The Kids' Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up*, by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer. Copyright © 2013 by Morris Book Publishing, LLC. Used by permission of FalconGuides