Celestial Scavenger Hunt

Length of Program

60 minutes

Program Description 

“What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing, and what do we think we might see?” 

-From “The Rainbow Connection”written by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams, and the opening song for “The Muppet Movie.”

Mariners have used astronomy for navigation across the seven seas for thousands of years.  In this program, teens will learn about constellations by participating in a scavenger hunt guided by a constellation map, and they will learn about the library and its resources as they seek answers. They will also listen to star myths and learn about celestial navigation from a local astronomer or hobbyist.  Summer nights in Texas are perfect for stargazing!

Developmental Needs and Assets

This program fulfills teens’ needs to learn and achieve and provides opportunities for positive social interactions with peers and adults.  Positive developmental assets supported by the program include constructive use of time, commitment to learning, and social competencies.  For more information about positive developmental assets for young adults, visit the Search-Institute website at http://www.search-institute.org/assets/forty.html.


Develop a set of questions about your library.  Suggestions for questions might include, “Where would a book by Janet Evanovich be found?” “Where is the book drop?” or “Where is the teen space?” Select one constellation for each question. 

Print or copy pictures of constellations and their names from books or web sites listed in this program.  On a map or floor plan of your library, write the directions north, south, east, and west.  Then insert pictures or names of constellations in the areas of your library where the answers to the questions may be found.  Plan your map so that the answers/constellations are in positions similar to the orientation of the constellations in the night sky.  For example, Orion points to the Big Dipper, the Big Dipper points to the North Star, etc. 

Write the questions on the reverse sides of a set of pictures of the constellations and their names.  Affix the constellations (with questions on the reverse side) throughout the library where the answers to the questions may be found. You may wish to laminate them. 

Prepare an answer sheet on which the teens may write the answers to the scavenger hunt questions.

Introduce the program by reading or telling a star myth such as The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale by Joseph Bruchacor How The Moon, Stars, And Sun Got Into The Sky, available on the Scouting Bear’s Cave web site at www.scoutingbear.com/audience/moon.htm. Or, invite a local storyteller to tell star myths. 

Invite a representative from a local astronomy club, community member, or science teacher who is an amateur astronomer to discuss astronomy and how the night sky can be used for navigation. A presenter may also be located at a local university or planetarium.

Books to Display

  • The Constellations: Stars and Stories by Chris Sasaki.
  • Guide to Stars and Planets by Patrick Moore.
  • Our Constellations and Their Stars by Ken Graun.
  • The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale by Joseph Bruchac.
  • They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths by Ray A. Williamson.

Books to Booktalk

  • Bloody Jack: Being An Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Farber Ship’s Boy by Lewis A. Meyer.
  • Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling.
  • Ferdinand Magellan and the Quest to Circle the Globe by Samuel William Crompton.
  • Ghost Ship by Deitlof Reiche.
  • Ludo and the Star Horse by Mary Stewart.

Bulletin Board

Use black or dark blue kraft paper to create a night sky. Write “Can You Find Your Way?” across the board. Use die-cut stars to make constellations such as the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, and Orion that point to the North Star, as well as other constellations that you may choose.


Serve mini-sized Milky Way™ bars, chips, sodas, and other celestial snacks. If you are a little more adventurous, let the teens make constellation cookies. Provide sugar cookies, chocolate icing, and white chocolate chips. Each teen ices a cookie and then creates a constellation by placing the white chips in the icing. For more elaborate snacks, check out the ideas suggested by NASA, www.nasa.gov/lb/audience/foreducators/informal/features/F_Host_a_Star_Party.html, which includes recipes for banana rocket ships, galaxy green punch, crescent moons, and more.


Oriental Trading Company, www.orientaltrading.com, has many star-themed items, such as gel stress relief stars and magnetic star sets that may be given as incentives.

Stories to Tell

Tell the story How The Moon, Stars, And Sun Got Into The Sky, available on the Scouting Bear’s Cave web site at www.scoutingbear.com/audience/moon.htm.

Games and Activities

Celestial Scavenger Hunt

Begin by giving the teens one constellation with a question on the reverse side, and a library constellation map.  When they find the answer to the first question, let them navigate with the constellation map of the library and locate the next question and answer.  They write the answer to each question on the answer key.

Invite them to have refreshments as they finish.

After the teens navigate through the library to the final constellation, invite them to have refreshments and discuss the process of following stars to find your way. Provide prizes to the teen with the most correct answers or most questions answered. Talk about how ancient mariners navigated night skies and if they would do it differently. You will find information to help with the discussion at How Columbus and Apollo Astronauts Navigated, www.spaceacts.com/correlation.htm.

Examples of constellations can be taken from the Fairfax Public School Planetarium web site at www.fcps.k12.va.us/DIS/OHSICS/planet/constell/constell.htm.  The constellations provided are suggestions only, libraries may add constellations if necessary.

Native American Star Myths

To inspire the teens, invite a storyteller to tell star myths. As an alternative, read or booktalk The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale by Joseph Bruchac, a story selected from They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths by Ray A. Williamson, or a Greek constellation myth. The Greek myth of Callisto and Arcas, the bears who became Ursa Major and Minor, is retold in the picture book, Little Bear, You're a Star: A Greek Myth About the Constellations by Jean Marzollo. An online resource for star myths is The Mythology of the Constellations at www.comfychair.org/~cmbell/myth/myth.html. You could also have the teens present a reader’s theater reading of “How Fisher Went to the Skyland,” an Anishabe story from the Great Lakes region that explains how Fisher, a fox-like creature, became the Big Dipper. The tale is available in Multicultural Folktales: Readers Theatre for Elementary Students by Suzanne I. Barchers, available through netLibrary, a TexShare resource. After you or the storyteller tells a tale, encourage the teens to make up an original story about a constellation. Post the stories on the library web site or on the bulletin board.


Have a local astronomy club or community member host a “Night Under the Stars” event at the library. Ask the astronomers to point out constellations at night. Have the teens find constellations in the sky. Ask the astronomers to bring telescopes, or borrow several from a hobby store so that the teens can look at the moon and planets. This would require good weather and a clear, dark sky, so plan a “rain date.” Alternatively, if you can’t find an astronomer, see if someone who sails can discuss navigating by the stars. Information about how to host a “star party,” including sample activities, is available from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, www.astrosociety.org/education/astro/astropubs/htm_events.html. A printable sky map is available at Astronomy for Kids, www.kidsastronomy.com/astroskymap/constellations.htm and other resource information is available at Star Date Online, http://stardate.org.

Web-Based Activities

Constellation Hunt


This online game encourages kids to find the constellations in the night sky.

Surfing the Solar System


Players are given clues in words and pictures to worlds or features in the solar system in this web-based game.

Web Sites

The Constellations and Their Stars


This site provides information, including name, position, and a star chart, for the individual constellations. It also provides information about the stories behind the constellations.

A Deep Photographic Guide to the Constellations


This site has photographs of the stars and added lines to illustrate the shapes they make.

The Mythology of the Constellations


This site provides information on the meanings and mythology of the constellations.

Star Lore & Mythology


This comprehensive site is a directory of web site for all aspects of mythology and folklore about the stars.

Professional Resources

Little Bear, You're a Star: A Greek Myth About the Constellations by Jean Marzollo.

Multicultural Folktales: Readers Theatre for Elementary Students by Suzanne I. Barchers. Also available through netLibrary, a TexShare resource.

The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale by Joseph Bruchac.

They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths byRay A. Williamson.

Earth and Sky


Printable pages show how to “connect the dots” to create constellations.

Fairfax Public School Planetarium www.fcps.k12.va.us/DIS/OHSICS/planet/constell/constell.htm

This site provides pictures that will allow libraries to make an individualized map of the stars.

How Columbus and Apollo Astronauts Navigated


The site provides diagrams, the process, and photographs of the missions using celestial navigation.

The Mythology of the Constellations




This federal agency’s web site includes a variety of resources, photographs, games, and more for use by adults who are working with kids, and for the kids themselves.

Oriental Trading Company


This company provides inexpensive incentives and prizes for children, teens, and adults.

Star Date Online


This project of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory offers tips on becoming a stargazer, a monthly star almanac to help identify what can be seen in the sky, podcasts of recent radio programs, and free teacher lesson plans and activities.


Texas Reading Club 2007 Programming Manual / Sail Away with Books!

Published by the Library Development Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Page last modified: June 14, 2011