This pipe cleaner constellation activity is an engaging and concrete way of helping young children understand constellations.
As adults, it is easier for us to look at a constellation diagram in a book and then look up in the night sky and translate it to the stars that are light years away and light years apart from each other.
But for young children, trying to make that connection can be a bit confusing. Hands-on activities like these pipe cleaner constellations are an effective learning tool. I liken it to teaching children division and multiplication using manipulatives, like beans or candies, where they can represent the concepts with actual items.
Plus, making pipe cleaner constellations is just.plain.fun. We used purple and black sparkly pipe cleaners, chenille sticks, and purple and pink star-shaped beads.
We have a free constellations printable that you can request below that includes 16 constellation cards and another painting activity. (If you download our printable pack, you might want to pick up some glow-in-the-dark paint when purchasing the craft supplies for this activity.)
How to Make Pipe Cleaner Constellations!
I do advise you have plenty of pipe cleaners on hand. Some of the more involved constellations can require three sticks. So, purchase more, save the receipt, and return what you don’t use. Or keep the supplies for other projects. 😊
- Pipe cleaners or chenille sticks. The exact number of packs will vary depending on how many are in the pack and how many children are doing the activity. I’d go with at least one pack per child.
- Beads with holes in them. You can use pony beads. We used star-shaped beads.
- Scissors that will cut the wire of the chenille sticks.
- Constellation cards form the printable pack
- Select a constellation from one of the cards. For younger children, start with an easy constellation.
- Shape the chenille stick to match the constellation. You will most likely have to cut and attach pieces. This step will help your child achieve the overall shape. Some of the constellation
outlines get interesting! Your child will discover that they have to twist pieces together.
- There is no right or wrong way to get the constellations put together. This project is an excellent opportunity for children to try their ideas, undo them, and try again! STEM is like this--testing ideas and coming up with solutions when ideas don’t work well.
- Do not attach anything until the beads are threaded onto the pipe cleaners.
- Fold over loose ends with a bead to prevent the bead from sliding off.
- Use a thread or thin string to hang the constellations from the ceiling or an overhead light fixture. (We hung ours from the light over our kitchen table.)
Some friends used theirs as ornaments on their Christmas tree!
In addition to the pipe cleaner constellations, you may want to add these activities and resources:
- Try our Make a Night Sky activity.
- If you have older children, learn about astronomical units and how to calculate them.
- Don’t forget to enjoy a family star gazing night. Here are 12 apps to help your family locate the visible constellations given the time of year and your geographical location.
- Have you printed our 55+ page resource – Get to Know the Planets?
- How Does the Sun Create Energy?
- Moon lessons and printables