THE NIGHT SKY – Colour, Shape, The Big Dipper

Students use white crayons, watercolour paints and construction paper to create a mixed media landscape that includes the Ursa Major (Big Bear) constellation in the sky and a bear somewhere on the ground.

Required Time

60 Minutes

Grade Level

Kindergarten to Grade 3


Language Arts
Visual Arts



Crayola Regular White Crayons Crayola Watercolour Paints Crayola Paint Brushes Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Construction Paper Crayola Scissors Crayola Glue Sticks Crayola Glitter Glue Water Containers Green Masking Tape Bristol Board - 30.5 cm x 30 5 cm (12" x 12") - 1 per student

Shop Crayola Products


THE NIGHT SKY – Colour, Shape, The Big Dipper - Step One

Step One

  1. Place  your paper on top of the Ursa Major template. (Downloads - UrsaMajorTemplate.pdf)
  2. Make sure the template is close to the top of the paper.
  3. Use a white crayon to trace the circles for the constellation on your paper.
  4. Make the circles for the Big Dipper larger than the other circles.
  5. Press hard with the crayon to get lots of wax on the paper.
THE NIGHT SKY – Colour, Shape, The Big Dipper - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Tape all 4 sides of your paper to a piece of Bristol board.
  2. Measure and mark 2 spots about 6 cm from the bottom of your paper.
  3. Use the marks as a rough guide to draw a line for the ground.
  4. Erase the marks.
  5. Let the rest of your paper be the sky.
THE NIGHT SKY – Colour, Shape, The Big Dipper - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use watercolours to paint over the whole paper.
  2. Use several colours and let them bleed into each other.
  3. Allow the painting to dry.
  4. Carefully remove the tape from the edges. 
THE NIGHT SKY – Colour, Shape, The Big Dipper - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Cut a bear and other details out of construction paper.
  2. Carefully glue them into place.
  3. Use markers and pencils for small details.
  4. Use a toothpick to stick glitter glue on the stars.
  5. When you are finished, view your picture from a distance. 
  6. Look at it with fresh eyes.
  7. What does it tell us about the night sky?
  8. What do you like best about your picture?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • use cutting and painting skills to create a mixed media picture;
  • create a composition that communicates information about the Ursa Major constellation;
  • create organic shapes;
  • identify the Big Dipper
  • explain how a constellation is different than an asterism;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.


Have students:

  • gather a variety of resources about astronomy;
  • use their resources to collect interesting facts about astronomy;
  • select a fact that interests them;
  • decide on a way to present information about the fact in an artful way, for example, creating a painting, 3-dimensional structure, book, poster, video;
  • share their work with others.


  1. Prior to this lesson have students explore the night sky in general.
    - constellations
    - asterisms
    - planets
    - the moon
    - stars
    - astronomy
  2. Introduce Ursa Major and the Big Dipper.
  3. Download images of the Ursa Major constellation from the Internet,
    Ursa Major
    The Big Dipper
  4. Download and display the Colour, and Shape posters available on this website.
  5. Gather and make available books on astronomy such as, Astronomy For Kids: Planets, Stars and Constellations - Intergalactic Kids Book Edition, by Baby Professor;
    National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space, by Catherine D. Hughes, and David A. Aguilar; The Day Mars Disappeared: Story about Space and Solar System, by Elijah Kravets; National Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas, by Carolyn DeCristofano; Smart Kids: Space: For Kids Who Really Love Space!, by Roger Priddy; and There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System, by Tish Rabe (Author), Aristides Ruiz. 
  6. Provide time for younger students to practice cutting out shapes with scissors.
  7. If possible get a copy of the book Legends of the Iroquois (Myths and Legends), by Tehanetorens, and Ray Fadden. 
  8. Learn The Story of the Great Bear, The Big Dipper so you can tell it rather than read it. (This First Nation legend explains how the Big Dipper came to be.)
  9. Try these storytelling tips to prepare the story:
    - practice telling the story to yourself over and over to get the flow of the details - don't try to memorize it 
    - you want to be able to 'just tell' the story in a natural, relaxed way
    - modulate your voice according to the action
    - speak slowly enough so the audience can take in the details of the story
    - once you feel ready tell the story to some trusted friends to get feedback 
    - make eye contact with your listeners
    - make natural and relaxed hand gestures 
  10. Download the Ursa Major template and print enough copies for each student to have one. (Downloads - UrsaMajorTemplate.pdf)


  1. Gather students together and tell the Iroquois legend The Story of the Great Bear, The Big Dipper.
  2. Explain that ancient peoples from around the world saw different pictures in the formation of Ursa Major, and had different stories about it.
  3. Discuss why the Iroquois First Nation peoples might have thought the stars were a bear.
    - bears were an important part of their culture
    - they hunted bears as a main source of meat
    - bears were admired as a powerful animal
    - because bears could walk on two feet as well as 4 they were sometimes considered as half-human and deserving of great respect
    - tools and clothing were decorated with bear designs
  4. View the star pattern in the Ursa Major constellation image and point out the Big Dipper.
  5. View the Big Dipper image and point out the placement of the stars.
  6. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a mixed media picture that shows Ursa Major and the Big Dipper in the sky.
  2. Include a bear somewhere on the ground in your picture.
  3. Cut organic shapes out of construction paper to add details to the scene.
  4. Emphasize the stars in the Big Dipper.
  5. Explain how a constellation is different than an asterism.
  6. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a mixed media picture 
    - accurately traced the stars for the Ursa Major constellation 
    - emphasized the stars for the Big Dipper in my picture
    - used the crayon resist technique to show the stars
    - cut organic shapes out of construction paper
    - carefully glued construction paper details to my painting
    - used my own ideas for the details in my picture
    - kept my picture in good condition
    - explained how a constellation is different than a constellation
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups.
  2. Ask them to: 
    - point out the stars in the Big Dipper and explain how they made them stand out to emphasize them;
    - tell how they decided what details to add in addition to the bear;
    - explain what the bear on the ground is doing and thinking;
    - point out what they like best about their picture and why.
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their pictures – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas on the picture, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the picture.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - NightSky_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - NightSky_self-assessment.pdf)