Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- A copy of the story "For the Love of Stars"
- A large basket
- Objects related to the story such as a galaxy wheel or constellation map, sparkly stars such as those used as Christmas tree decorations, a small solar system mobile, a photo of Hubble telescope, or photos taken from Hubble
- A chime, rain stick, or other instrument with a calm sound
- Optional: Box or small table and a decorative cloth cover
- Optional: Fidget basket (see Session 1, Leader Resource 4)
- Optional: Dress-up clothing for role-playing children to use characters
Preparation for Activity
- Place the story-related items and the chime, rain stick, or other sound instrument in the story basket. Place the filled basket in the storytelling area you have designated.
- Read the story a few times.
- This story is not plot-driven. It is a biography. To keep young children's interest, help their understanding, and build their comfort with "science words," write these words on newsprint: meteorite, astronomer, Sir Isaac Newton, botany, physics, hydrogen, Ph.D. Place the newsprint in the story basket. Post it just before you begin the story. Invite them to listen for these words as you tell the story.
- Optional: To provide a focal point where story-related items can sit while you tell the story, set up a box or table next to your storytelling area and drape it with a decorative cloth.
- Optional: If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who will listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the basket available during this activity. Remind children where it is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. See Session 1, Leader Resource 4, Fidget Objects for a full description of fidget baskets and guidance for using them.
Description of Activity
Gather the children in a circle in the storytelling area and show them the story basket. Say something like, "Let's see what's in our story basket this week."
Tell the group the items in the story basket will be placed on this table after the children have passed them around the circle. Take the story-related items from the basket, one at a time, and pass them around. Objects that are fragile, or which should not be passed around for any reason, can be held up for all to see and then placed directly on the table.
Name each object and ask a wondering question about each one. As items come back to you, display them on the table. Then say, in your own words:
Today I have a story to share about an astronomer. Her name was Cecilia Payne and she was a Unitarian Universalist. It's a big deal that she was the first person, ever, to be called an astronomer. More importantly, she loved science and believed that using reason to figure things out was a way to answer the big questions we all share.
Remove the sound instrument from the story basket. Remind the children that you will use the instrument to help them get their ears, their minds, and their bodies ready to listen. Invite them to sit comfortably and close their eyes (if they are comfortable doing so). You may tell them that closing their eyes can help them focus just on listening. If someone is unable to close their eyes or sit still, invite them to hold one of the story basket items or an item from the fidget basket.
In a calm voice, say:
As you breathe in, feel your body opening up with air. As you breathe out, feel yourself relaxing.
Repeat this once or twice. Then say:
When I hit the chime (turn the rain stick over), listen as carefully as you can. See how long you can hear its sound. When you can no longer hear it, open your eyes and you will know it is time for the story to begin.
Sound the instrument.
Read/tell the story. When you have finished, sound the instrument again. Lead a discussion with these questions:
- Do you ever think about what you want to be when you grow up?
- Have you ever done a science experiment?
- Have you ever been excited about figuring out how something works?
- What do you think about not believing someone because of who they are (female, young, a different skin color)?