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20 October 2014
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The Beauty of Maps - Cellarius Star Map

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Lesson plans

BBC links

Full details, including credits and location for the maps featured can be found on the BBC Four site.

Aims and objectives

  • To begin to understand about constellations in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • To learn about the myths behind the names of some of the constellations.
  • To introduce the topic of astronomy.
  • To understand the key elements of Renaissance art.

Resources required for this lesson

The lesson plan


  1. Hand out the picture of the plough - Cellarius Worksheet 1.
  2. Ask the class to join the dots to see what shape it makes.
  3. Discuss in pairs what their shape looks like and feed back their answers.
  4. Explain that it is a picture of stars observed without a telescope and is called the plough. Explain that groups of stars together are called constellations and that many were discovered by the Greeks and Romans. Each constellation is drawn into a shape and there is a story that is meant to explain why the stars are grouped in this way. It was their way of explaining science.

Activity 1

  1. Watch the video on Cellarius, and download the transcript to help you follow the clip.
  2. Ask pupils to complete worksheet 2 as pupils watch the video.
  3. Discuss what you could learn about science from this map and the knowledge of the stars in the 16th Century.

Activity 2

  1. Split the class into groups of 4-5 pupils.
  2. Hand out the Role play cards and ask each group to produce a role play which tells the story of the constellation they you have been given.
  3. After the class have watched each role play put the map from the BBC Four website up on the IWB. Match the role play to the picture of the constellation.

Activity 3

  1. Look at the pictures of the Psalter and star map - Cellarius Worksheet 3.
  2. Split the class into pairs and ask them to look at the pictures of the Psalter and star map.
  3. They have to make a list of differences in the type of art.
  4. Feedback their answers and make a class list of the key elements of the art in the star map. They should be able to identify the key aspects of Renaissance Art. These include a sense of perspective, an attempt to draw people as an accurate recreation, use of roman architecture or other roman and/or Greek ideas.
  5. Ask the class to add labels to their map of the elements that highlight the elements of Renaissance Art.

Activity 4

  1. Ask the class to imagine that they are a 16th Century astronomer who has discovered a new constellation.
  2. They need to decide upon a story/myth to go with the name of their constellation.
  3. Then produce a Renaissance drawing to illustrate their myth.


Split the class into pairs and ask them to answer the questions below.
  1. What have you learned on scientific knowledge of the space in the 16th Century?
  2. Why were people excited about stars in the 16th Century?
  3. What have you learned about Renaissance art?


  1. Research the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere.
  2. Find out more about the constellations of the Northern Hemisphere.
  3. Find out more about looking at the stars -
  4. Look at the worksheets here to help you identify the constellations you can see -
  5. Find out more about the instruments used and the scientific advances needed to look at the stars -

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