Classroom Ideas and Activities

In this area you can find various downloads and ideas for classroom or family activities. These activities are aimed at a general audience but can be adapted for use as part of a more simple or complex lesson/activity as required.


Classroom activity - Learning about Constellations.

Familiarise your class with the twenty-eight constellations by making your own star-finders.

Download a template and instructions (PDF 2.9MB) and follow the discussion points below. You will need scissors, paper, pens and star shaped stickers or glow-stars.

Lesson plan/discussion points

Classroom activity – Make Cup Projectors

For this activity you will need a room that can be completely darkened, with a blank ceiling. This activity is best done with a group of students. Each student will need to choose one constellation.

If you have not already done so, download a wallchart (PDF 7.9MB) showing the Chinese constellations from this page. You will need one disposable cup and one torch per student, plus pens and pencils.

Lesson plan/discussion points

Classroom activity - Make a Sundial

Before the invention of the clock, people used the sky to help them find their way and tell the time of day or season. Sundials, or rigui 日晷 in Chinese, were basic instruments with a mounted arm called a gnomon which cast a shadow on a bronze or stone dial when the sun shone upon them. The shadow indicated the time of day. The earliest sundial of China, according to historical documents, was the flat horizontal dial plate, or the horizontal sundial invented in AD 574.

Make a sundial with your class to explain how shadows cast by planets (the sun in this case) can help us to tell the time.

Download a template for your sundial (PDF 340KB). You will also need scissors, glue, a compass, sellotape, a craft knife and some cardboard.

Lesson plan/discussion points

Classroom activity – Understanding Map Projections

A globe is the most accurate way of representing the earth or the sky. However, flat maps are more convenient to use and to store. Maps of the earth or of the sky are also sometimes called projections because map-makers have needed to project a three dimensional surface onto a two dimensional surface in order to make them. Since a map is two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional world, it is understood that most projections contain certain compromises to accuracy. Different maps, or projections, differ in their relative accuracy in depicting area, the shapes of objects, actual distances, and compass direction. A map-maker (or cartographer) may therefore choose to focus on the accuracy of one feature (actual distance for example), to the detriment of others (shape of land masses for example).

Make individual maps of the world with your class to illustrate the difficulties of projection and help them understand the difference between various projections.

You will need a globe (you can buy inflatable globes relatively inexpensively), marker pens, a knife, and an unwaxed orange for each student (or small group of students). You may also want some kitchen towel or wipes for sticky fingers.

Lesson plan/discussion points