South Orangetown Central School District

Science Instructional Coach Sam Levine and Science Team Leader Brian Newburger

Fourth graders at Cottage Lane Elementary School explored the stars during a recent lesson in the StarLab with K-8 Instructional Science Coach Samantha Levine and Tappan Zee High School Science Team Leader Brian Newburger.

As fourth graders are learning about the Native Americans and groups who inhabited areas of New York State such as the Algonquin and the Haudenosaunee, Levine created a cross-curriculum lesson that combined social studies and science. “In StarLab, we discussed how the Native Americans in New York used the patterns they saw in the sky to help explain scientific phenomena such as why the leaves changed color in the fall and why the sun’s path changes position throughout the year,” said Levine.

Levine and Newburger told the stories associated with constellations including the Big Dipper and Orion and displayed them within the inflatable planetarium. “The students learned how the Big Dipper can be seen in the sky in New York throughout the entire year, but the position it faces changes depending on the season. The path of the Big Dipper, known as the Big Bear, around the North star allowed the Native Americans to track when to plant crops and when to harvest, preserve and store their food for winter,” Levine explained. They also told students about the story the Native Americans told about the constellation Orion and how they explained the phenomenon of how the path of the sun is high in the sky when the Northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun in the spring and summer giving us more direct light and heat and tilting away from the sun in the fall and winter.