The Chinese Kindergarten
Constellation Lesson

Astronomy is introduced in kindergarden to help the child develop the scientific mind. Initially, the child is given the example that just as they belong to a family, the planet Earth also belongs to a family, that is called our Solar System. The child learns about our family of planets, comets, asteroids and moons circling our sun, which is a star. From there the study of the patterns of the stars, their names and stories are taught. The children love to learn the mythologies of ancient peoples and identify those constellations that were crucial to the cycles of planting and that gave them navigational guidance at sea.

The lesson below presents eleven constellations. Once you think you've mastered them click here to test your new skills with the Constellation Quiz.

Gemini the Twins
Lyra, the Harp
Boötes, the Bear Driver
Canis Major/Canis Minor
Pegasus, the Winged Horse
Ursa Major, the Great Bear (the Big Dipper)
Ursa Minor, the Lesser Bear (the Little Dipper)
Cygnus, the Swan
Taurus, the Bull

(adapted from Greek mythology by H. Thornburn and B. San Filippo)


Cassiopeia was a beautiful queen.
She bragged about being so beautiful.
This made the sea nymphs angry.
They went to the heavenly council.
The council punished Cassiopeia for bragging.
She was turned into a constellation.
For six months each year, she must sit on her throne upside down.
This was to embarass her for bragging.
The other six months of the year, she sits on her throne right side up.
Cassiopeia is a W or M shape in the sky.

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Gemini the Twins

Jupiter had two sons.
Their names were Castor and Pollux.
Castor was born a human who would die some day.
Pollux was born a god-like person who would never die.
Castor and Pollux did everything together.
One day Castor was killed in a war.
Pollux was very sad.
Jupiter also was sad.
He told Pollux he would bring Castor back to life
if Pollux promised to spend half his time in the underworld.
Pollux said he would.
This made Jupiter so happy he put a star on each boy's forehead
and made them into a constellation.

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Orion was a hunter who fell in love with Diana.
Diana's brother did not want Diana to marry Orion.
To stop her from marrying Orion,
her brother tricked Diana into a target shooting test.
She was to hit a small object way out at sea.
She was a good shot.
She hit the object.
The object was Orion.
Diana felt so badly that she turned Orion into a constellation in the sky.
Orion is the brightest constellation in the sky.

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Lyra, the Harp

Lyra was named for the lyre (or harp) or Orpheus, a famous musician.
His father, Apollo, made him a beautiful harp out of a turtle's shell.
When Oprheus' wife, Euridyce, died he played sad music.
The music was so sad that the gods were going to let him return.
Before she came back, however, Orpheus broke a promise.
The gods were furious and did not let Euridyce return.
Orpheus' father was angry.
He took the beautiful harp and hung it upon the stars.

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Boötes, the Bear Driver

The gods wanted to be sure that Ursa Major and Ursa Minor,
the two bear stars, never left the skies
because sea captains used their light to guide ships at night.
Boötes had two dogs and so was given the job
of keeping the bears where they belonged.
Boötes with his lance and his two dogs follow
Callisto and Arcas night and day keeping them on their proper path.

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Canis Major/Canis Minor
The Great Dog/The Little Dog

Cephalus was married to Procris.
One summer Cephalus went on a hunting trip.
He was gone for such a long time that his wife,
Procris, decided to join him.
It was to be a surprise.
When she reached his camp in the woods,
the hunting dog barked.
It was dark and Cephalus,
thinking the dog was barking at a dangerous animal,
turned and shot. Procris was hit.
The dog was placed in the sky forever to follow Orion
and doomed to chase a rabbit which it will never catch.

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Pegasus, the Winged Horse

A young man, Perseus, was sent by the gods
to rescue a lovely maiden from a sea monster.
Ordinary weapons could not hurt the monster.
In another village there lived a woman called Medusa
whose hair was made of snakes.
Anyone who looked at her was turned into stone.
Perseus heard about her and brought her to the sea monster.
Of course, when the sea monster looked at her, he turned to stone.
The lovely maiden was set free.
Neptune, god of the sea,
saw the good in Medusa so in her honor,
he molded a snow-white horse out of sea foam,
added wings to the horse and sent it to be in the sky.
He named this winged horse Pegasus.
The "Great square of Pegasus" is a key corner of the sky.

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Ursa Major, the Great Bear (the Big Dipper)/
Ursa Minor, the Lesser Bear (the Little Dipper)

Callisto was a beautiful mother.
She had a son named Arcas.
Callisto was changed into a bear and taken away from Arcas.
She was to roam the forests forever.
When Arcas was grown up he became a hunter.
One day he came across a bear which he decided to kill.
It was Callisto.
Jupiter realized that Arcas was about to kill his mother.
He stopped Arcas.
Then, he changed him into a bear.
Jupiter then grabbed the bears and threw them into the sky.
This made the bears' tails long.
The bears are now constellations.

The mother bear, Ursa Major, is forever pointing toward the bright Polaris,
the important star that is at the tail of her son, Ursa Minor.

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Cygnus, the Swan

Cygnus had a good friend name Paethon.
Paethon was allowed to drive the sun chariot across the sky.
Somehow he lost control of the chariot and fell into deep water.
Cygnus dove, time after time, into the water to save his friend,
but could not.
Jupiter, father of the Gods, saw him putting his head under the water
and thought Cygnus looked like a swan.
Jupiter was all powerful and he turned Cygnus into a swan
and placed him in the sky.
The stars look like a cross in the sky and so, Cygnus, the Swan,
is sometimes called the Nothern Cross.

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Taurus, the Bull

Jupiter, king of the gods, fell in love with a beautiful maiden named Europa.
Europa's father would not let Jupiter see her and this made him very sad.
Jupiter knew that Europa loved animals and so he turned himself into a white bull.
The bull was so kind and friendly that Europa jumped on his back.
Jupiter, the bull, galloped away with her and swam to a beautiful island.
In honor of this journey, a continent was named for Europa
and the upper half of the snow-white bull was sent to the sky.

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