Native American Storytelling Seeks to Explain the Heavens

Teaching Strategies

Before the lesson, gather, download, and review all materials carefully. Make adjustments to the lesson as needed to meet your specific goals for your class.

  • Prior knowledge should be established before this activity:
  1. Discuss constellations.
  2. Name different constellations.
  3. Discuss placement of constellations in the night sky.
  4. Discuss how to identify the various constellations.
  5. Discuss man's use of storytelling to relate to the natual phenomena of the explaining the constellations.            
  • Read and discuss various Greek myths that explain the star patterns and constellations (Ursa Major) and (Ursa Minor) “the Big Dipper” and "the Little Dipper." (Space Science, Mythological Study) 
  1. Discuss different Greek gods and goddess.
  2. Discuss how they have been used to explain the phenomenon of constellations.
  • Read and discuss various Native American myths that explain the star patterns and constellations; for instance, "The Great Bear" myth of the Iroquois people.
  • Using a Venn diagram, compare and contrast the Greek mythology and the Native American mythology that explain the star patterns and constellations.
  • Visit this web site:
  • Then,
  1. Discuss how it is used.
  2. Discuss the importance of the star finder.
  3. What can be learned from the results of using the star finder?
  4. Have students individually construct a star finder.

·         ***If a NASA portable Planetarium is not available, assign students to go outside and locate the North Star. From this point use the star finder to locate the Big Dipper and various star patterns. (Astronomy)

  • Follow instructions in  constructing a star finder to be used in the NASA Planetarium. (Visual Arts)
  • Assign students to use correct procedures for entering the planetarium.
  • Listen to the story from the script using the Greek Mythology Cylinder
  • Listen to the story from the script using the Native American Mythology Cylinder (Storytelling)
  • Use the constructed star finder to locate the Great Bear Constellation in the planetarium.
  • Explain that one aspect of myths is their variability. They are passed down from person to person, and many versions of the same myths exist.
  • Discuss differences between cultures and how culture affects the names and myths behind the different constellations.
  • Talk about several of the constellations and how they relate to various Native American cultures.
  • Review the importance of constellations to Native American cultures by viewing the cylinder.
  • Rewrite a traditional myth about a constellation from a new point of view. For instance, if one myth describes the creation from the point of view of a bear, rewrite it from the point of view of a human observing the action. (Creative Writing)