Maynard F Jordan Planetarium Banner
        Galaxy Maine menu buttonSpace Academy menu buttonMissions  menu buttonStarbase Orono  menu buttonObservatory  menu buttonSky News  menu button
Galaxy Margin Image












Follow the Drinking Gourd Classroom Guide

Upon making a reservation to attend Follow the Drinking Gourd at the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium, you will receive a hard copy of the Cosmic Classroom Guide.

In addition to the activities and vocabulary that you see here, the hard copy has sections that cover getting ready to do the activity, resources and materials that you will need, steps to follow from beginning to end, questions for class discussion and some continuations and extensions that you may want to add to the activity.

Below is a listing of the activities that you will find in the Follow the Drinking Gourd Cosmic Classroom Guide accompanied by a description of the State of Maine Learning Results Guiding Principles and the State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators that will be addressed when you do that activity in your own classroom. In addition to these activities please make use of our resources and bibliography.


Nasa Classroom Image

Back to Cosmic Classroom


A snapshot of only the recorded part of this program is viewable at the NASA Quest site. This is not the entire planetarium program, but just the audio of the song and the Drinking Gourd story by Jeannette Winter (a Maine author) and book slides. This is especially helpful for teaching the song as heard in the planetarium.


Numbering the Stars

The Sun Appears to Rise and Set

Stars Form Patterns in the Sky

Stars Give Off Light

Numbering the Stars

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators: Learners will be able to demonstrate the size of our galaxy (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #2.)
Learners will be able to compare sizes and distances of scale stars to those of real stars (5-8. Science and Technology. G. #3.)
Learners will be able to conduct scientific investigations in order to comprehend the number of stars in our galaxy. (5-8. Science and Technology. J. #1., J. #2.)
Learners will be able to understand that using sand to represent stars is a practical use of a scale model. (5-8. Science and Technology. L. #4.)
Learners will be able to use note taking effectively while gathering data and separate that data appropriate. (5-8. English Language Arts. H. #1., H. #2.)
Learners will be able to use the appropriate unit of measure for the experiment they are conducting. (5-8. Science and Technology. J. #1.)
Learners will be able to form generalizations about other galaxies and make predictions about the number of stars in those galaxies (Secondary. Science and Technology. K. #3., J. #2.)
Learners will be able to use measurement tools and units appropriately and recognize limitations in the precision of the measurement tools. (Secondary. Mathematics. F. #1.)
The General Idea: Comprehending the enormousness of 200 billion of anything is difficult for most people to grasp. Take the number itself for instance, how long do you think it would take to count to 200 billion? At one number a second, would you believe almost 6,400 years! Or consider height, a stack of 200 billion pennies would stretch 286,000 km, or three-fourths of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. So how can we help our students grasp the fact that there are close to 200 billion stars in our galaxy the Milky Way? Astronomers often use 200 billion as the approximate number of stars in our galaxy, but most of us really cannot appreciate a number that large. This activity will help students develop a sense of number scale, understand the concept of volume, and develop scientific estimation, measurement and data analysis skills.

The Sun Appears to Rise and Set

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators: Learners will be able to observe that the Sun appears to be in different places in the sky at different times of the day (Pre.K-2. Science and Technology. G. #1.)
Learners will be able to demonstrate that the above occurs because the Earth is rotating. (Pre.K-2. Science and Technology. G. #1.) (3-4. Science and Technology. G. #3.)
Learners will be able to use a model to represent the Sun rising (Pre. K-2. Science and Technology. L. #6.)
The General Idea: This activity is designed to disprove the geocentric idea that many young students have, the idea that the Sun must be going around us because of how it rises and sets. Through observations of the Sun (please make sure that all you students know that it is dangerous to look directly at the Sun!) and its path through the sky and through teacher demonstration, students will learn how day and night are the result of the Earth rotating rather then the Sun revolving.

Stars Form Patters in the Sky

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators: Learners will be able to discover that the stars form patterns in the sky. (Pre.K-2. Science and Technology. K. #6., Mathematics. G. #1.).
Learners will be able to make observations about the night sky. (Pre. K-2. Science and Technology. K. #3.)
Learners will be able to use pictures to represent the constellations (Pre. K-2. Science and Technology. L. #6.)
The General Idea: Standing under the sky on a dark night and gazing at the stars is an incredible sight. But how do we tell the difference between this star and that? As adults we use constellations to more easily identify stars and groups of stars. This idea of stars making a picture correlates with young students love of dot-to-dot pictures. After students have become familiar with activities such as dot-to-dot’s and geo-boards, you can use the following activity to link these mathematical concepts with science.

Stars Give Off Light

Objectives and State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators: The learners will be able to explain that stars give off light (3-4. Science and Technology. G. #2).
The learners will be able to demonstrate an understanding that moons and planets get their light from stars.
The learners will be able to show that the Sun is a star (Pre.K-2. Science and Technology. G. #3).
The learners will be able to describe the effects of Sun light on how we see other stars during the day.
The General Idea: To the untrained eye, the night sky is ablaze with the light of thousands of tiny dots. From here on Earth it is sometimes hard to tell the stars from the planets. This activity will help students understand that while both the stars and planets appear to shimmer in the night sky, they are very different objects indeed.

Follow the Drinking Gourd State of Maine Learning Results Guiding Principles

The lessons in the Cosmic Classroom Guide, in combination with Follow the Drinking Gourd, will help students to work towards some of the Guiding Principles set forth by the State of Maine Learning Results. By the simple act of visiting the planetarium, students of all ages open an avenue for self-directed lifelong learning. A field trip encourages students to think about learning from all environments including those beyond the school yard. A Jordan Planetarium visit also introduces visitors to the campus of the largest post-secondary school in Maine and encourages them to think of this as a place which holds opportunities for their future education, enjoyment and success.

Other sites on the University campus, including three museums, explore a variety of subjects, and the Visitors Center is always willing to arrange tours of the campus. A field trip can contribute to many different disciplines of the school curriculum and demonstrate that science is not separate from art, from mathematics, from history, etc. The world is not segregated into neat little boxes with labels such as social studies and science. A field trip is an opportunity for learning in an interdisciplinary setting, to bring it all together and to start the process of thinking. For a more complete discussion of field trips, please visit the Jordan Planetarium web site.

If used in its entirety and accompanied by the Planetarium visit this guide will help students to:

Become a clear and effective communicator through
A. oral expression such as class discussions, and written presentations
B. listening to classmates while doing group work, cooperation, and keeping records.

Become a self-directed and life long learner by
A. introducing students to career and educational opportunities at the University of Maine and the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium.
B. encouraging students to go further into the study of the subject at hand, and explore the question of “what if?”
C. giving students a chance to use a variety of resources for gathering information

Become a creative and practical problem solver by
A. asking students to observe phenomena and problems, and present solutions
B. urging students to ask extending questions and find answers to those questions
C. developing and applying problem solving techniques
D. encouraging alternative outcomes and solutions to presented problems

Become a collaborative and quality worker through
A. an understanding of the teamwork necessary to complete tasks
B. applying that understanding and working effectively in their assigned groups
C. demonstrating a concern for the quality and accuracy needed to complete an activity

Become an integrative and informed thinker by
A. applying concepts learned in one subject area to solve problems and answer questions in another
B. participating in class discussion

State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators

In conjunction with the Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium show Follow the Drinking Gourd this Teachers Guide will help you meet the following State of Maine Learning Results Performance Indicators in you classroom. For the complete State of Maine Learning Results Publication on-line, please visit

Grades Pre. K-2
Science and Technology

G. Universe
#1. Explain the cycles of day/night and of seasons.

#3. Demonstrate and understanding that the Sun is one of many stars in the universe and is the closest star to Earth.

Grades 3-4
Science and Technology

G. Universe
#2. Trace the source of the Earth’s heat and light energy to the Sun.

English Language Arts

B. Literature and Culture
#1. Demonstrate awareness of the culture and geography pertinent to the texts they read.

#3. Respond to speakers in a variety of ways.

Grades 5-8
Science and Technology

G. Universe
#1. Compare past and present knowledge about characteristics of stars and explain how people have learned about them.

#2. Describe the concept of galaxies, including size and number of stars.

#3. Compare and contrast distances and the time required to travel those distances on Earth, in the solar system, in the galaxy, and between galaxies.

# 5. Describe the motions of moons, planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies.

J. Inquiry and Problem Solving
#1. Make accurate observations using appropriate tools and units of measure.

#2. Design and conduct scientific investigations which include controlled experiments and systematic observations. Collect and analyze data, and draw conclusions fairly.

L. Communication
#4. Make and use scale drawings, maps, and three-dimensional models to represent real objects, find locations, and describe relationships.

Social Studies

B. Human Interaction With Environments
#2. Explain Patterns of Migration throughout the world.

B. Historical Knowledge, Concepts, and Patterns
#2. Demonstrate an awareness of major events and people in the United States and Maine history.

English Language Arts

H. Research Related Writing
#1. Collect and synthesize data for research topics from interviews and field work, using note taking and other appropriate strategies.

#2. Separate information collected for research topics into major components based on relevant criteria.

U maine Logo

Contact | Star Shows | Public Shows | Field Trips | UMaine | Observatory

Maynard F. Jordan Planetarium, 5781 Wingate Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5781
Phone: (207) 581-1341