Topic: Sun/Moon/Stars

1st Grade, Art & Literacy Curriculum Set





In this project, student artists are introduced to constellations and their stories from Greek, Native American, and Inca cultures; they compare how these cultures interpreted the same groups of stars in the sky and learn about how they incorporated the changing sky into their mythology. Student artists brainstorm their own, original, constellations, create an origin myth, redraw their brainstorms into a thought out composition of the night sky, and finish using liquid watercolor and oil pastels. 






Pens & pencils, Watercolor paper (recommended: at least 11×14”), eraser, scissors, sharpies. oil pastels, *liquid watercolors, *palettes or small paint cups, water cups, paintbrushes in a variety of sizes (leaning towards small), cloth or paper towel to ‘blot’

Optional (see lesson 2): markers, colored paper

*Note: pan watercolors will work, but the colors will be less vibrant. If using pan watercolor you do not need palettes


  • (optional, lesson 1 & 3): computers or tablets for early finishers 
  • (optional, lesson 2):  Origin Stories from a variety of cultures, such as:
    • “The Constellation Hercules”/Cassiopeia/Draco/Scorpius by Lisa Owings
    •  “Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations” by Jacqueline Mitton
    • Printed, kid friendly versions such as this collection by Norm McCarter:
  •  (optional, lesson 3):
    • “Coyote Places the Stars” by Harriet Peck Taylor 
    • “How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend” by Jerrie Oughton  



These are optional and, if using the videos to teach, unnecessary. If you are teaching the lessons without showing the videos, you’ll need to gather these resources to successfully illustrate the lesson concepts. 

  • Lesson 1: examples of constellations with images over them. The video compares the Greek constellation ‘Orion’ with the Lakota constellation, based on the same stars, of a hand.
  • Lesson 2:  an example of the constellation of Pegasus
  • Lesson 3:  examples of the Ursa Major in different positions in the sky (see video summary). is a good resource for this.
  • Lesson 4/5:  Examples of the Milky Way, and keep the inspiration image handy to point out the Inca constellations as you discuss.


Text Set:

Text Sets support all learners, especially those with background knowledge or vocabulary deficits, by building up these domains through a volume of reading on Science, Social Studies, and other high interest topics. You can learn more about building and using text sets here. 

The texts listed below have been pulled from,, El Education modules, and resources referenced in text sets from based on their connection to the topics addressed in this lesson.  Texts listed are at a variety of reading levels and could be read aloud or printed/provided for students to read, depending on the needs of the readers in your classroom. These texts are not integrated into the lessons; they are an optional extension, and listed here as a reference for educators interested in building their student’s background knowledge around the project’s core topic. 

ISBN/Website  Title  Author Type What are Stars?  Rachelle Kreisman Article/Non-fiction Why Don’t We See Stars in the Daytime? Readworks Article/Non-fiction A Ride In Space Kate Paixão Article/Non-fiction The Northern Lights are the Earth’s Fireworks!  By Washington Post, adapted by Newsela staff Article/Non-Fiction “Zombie star” should be dead, but still shining after many explosions By The Guardian, adapted by Newsela staff Article/Non-fiction  Idaho’s dark skies and visible stars are attractive natural resource By Associated Press, adapted by Newsela staff Article/Non-fiction Days slowly growing — and will get even longer By The Guardian, adapted by Newsela staff Article/Non-fiction
0736896171 Phases of the Moon (Patterns in Nature) by Gillia M. Olson  (Author), Jo Miller (Illustrator) Book/Non-Fiction
1596435127 How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers by Mordicai Gerstein  Book/Fiction
606377387 What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn Branley Book/non-fiction
146778611X Does the Sun Sleep? Noticing Sun, Moon, and Star Patterns  by Martha E.H. Rustand Book/non-fiction
*see also the texts listed as ‘optional’ within the Books/Media part of the lesson. While these are incorporated into the lesson itself as an optional extension, they would make useful additions to a text set. 


Tier 2 (academic vocabulary) words appear in many different contexts and are often subtle or precise ways to say relatively simple things, for example “relative” or “accumulate”. We’ve determined several rich Tier 2 vocabulary used in this lesson by analyzing the language used in the project’s video lessons through Achieve the Core’s ‘Academic Word Finder’. Vocabulary instruction is critical for students as they develop reading, writing, and oral language skills.  We recommend supporting students’ understanding of these words by using them in conversation, reinforcing them in discussion, and encouraging student use of new words, More information is available here.  

Access the full file, with definitions, here. 

  • Allowable
  • Copy
  • Couple
  • Develop
  • Imagine
  • Object
  • Polish
  • Train
  • Tribe
  • Vision
  • Connected


Tier 3 words are vocabulary words that address specific content in the lessons, or are related to the Visual Arts. Tier 3 words are central to building knowledge and conceptual understanding within the various academic domains should be used and reinforced throughout the teaching of these lessons.

  • Constellation
  • Origin Story
  • Composition 
  • Myth







READING: Informational Text 

RI.1.9 Identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

Supporting this: Lesson 1-4, students learn about constellation mythology and origin stories from Greek, Native American, and Inca cultures. Literacy extensions are available during lessons 2 & 3.


W.1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure. 

Lesson 5: writing an artist’s statement

W.1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.  

Lesson 2: developing an origin story for their constellation with the help of a story map. Note that students are able to include information through drawing or writing. 


SL.1.1a Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions.  

 SL.1.1b Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges.

SL.1.2 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.  

Lessons 1-4: discussing the inspiration image, Lessons 1-5: student artwork presentations

SL.1.1c Ask questions to clear up any confusion about the topics and texts under discussion. SL.1.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.

SL.1.5 Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.  

Lessons 1-5: student artwork presentations)


  • Science
Connect to studies of the sky, moon, sun, or stars
  • Social Studies
 Emphasize the different cultural similarities and differences
  • Language Arts 
Use the enclosed book suggestions & emphasize the writing component


Core Content are common topics used all across America to address Social Studies and Science standards. This project supports the following core content in social studies:

Historical Inquiry


Core Content are common topics used all across America to address Social Studies and Science standards. This project supports the following core content in science:


EL Education

EL Education ( ) is an open-source literacy curriculum. 

This art project supports the ideas and learning in the following EL Education Domains:


Domain 1: Fables and Stories

This domain will introduce students to fables and stories that have delighted generations of people. By listening to these classics,students will increase their vocabulary and reading comprehension skills, learn valuable lessons about ethics and behavior, become familiar with the key elements and parts of a story, and acquire cultural literacy.

Domain 3: Different Lands, Similar Stories

This domain will introduce students to three themes in folktales that have been told to children for generations, using variations from different lands or countries. By listening to these stories, students will increase their vocabulary and reading comprehension skills, be exposed to different places and cultures from around the world, and learn valuable universal lessons.


Domain 5: Early American Civilizations

The domain includes a study of the Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations, exposing students to the gradual development of cities. Students will examine the fundamental features of the Maya, Aztec, and Inca, including farming, the establishment of cities and government, as well as religion. Students will be encouraged to compare and contrast each of these societies and their elements.

Domain 6: Astronomy

In this domain, students will be introduced to the solar system—our home in space. They will learn that Earth, the planet on which we live, is just one of many different celestial bodies within the solar system. They will learn how the sun, the stars, the moon, and the other planets relate to the earth (given its position in space). In the early read-alouds, students will learn that the sun is a giant star as well as a source of light, heat, and energy for the earth. They will also learn about the earth’s orbit around the sun, and how the earth’s own rotation on its axis leads to the phenomenon of day and night. Part of this domain is focused on the history of space exploration and the missions to the moon. Students will learn about NASA, the Space Race, the Apollo missions, and what it takes to be an astronaut.




Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

VA:Cr2.1.1a: Explore uses of materials and tools to create works of art or design.

Lessons 1-5, building an artwork from a brainstorm to final piece 

Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.

VA:Cr3.1.2a: Discuss and reflect with peers about choices made in creating artwork

Lessons 1-5: student artwork presentations


Anchor Standard 11: Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding

VA:Cn11.1.1a : Understand that people from different places and times have made art for a variety of reasons.

Lessons 1-4: discussing the inspiration image, during the lesson introductions

VA:Cn11.1.2a: Compare and contrast cultural uses of artwork from different times and places.

Lessons 1-4: discussing the inspiration image, during the lesson introductions


line, color, value


balance, unity

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