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      Stars have been used to guide travel for thousands of years, and the story of the Underground Railroad includes use of the North Star (Polaris) as a navigational tool of escaping slaves. The North Star, which never rises or sets, always appears to be in the same position in the sky because it is situated almost directly above the earth's axis. Students can learn about the properties of stars while learning about the unique social and cultural history of the North Star, also referred to as the Drinking Gourd, due to it's position in the Ursa Major constellation, or the Big Dipper.


Include stories and songs of escaping slaves who used the North Star to attain freedom to introduce the study of the motion and properties of stars.

Connections to Kentucky's Core Content for Assessment for Earth Science

Earth and Space Science: Conceptual Understanding

Grades P-4
2.2.2 Objects in the sky (e.g., Sun, clouds, moon) have properties, locations, and real or apparent movements that can be observed and described.

Grades 5-8
2.3.2 Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion. These motions explain such phenomena as the day, the year, phases of the moon, and eclipses.

Grades 8-11
2.4.3 Stars have life cycles of birth through death that are analogous to those of living organisms. During their lifetimes, stars generate energy from nuclear fusion reactions that create successively heavier chemical elements. Some stars explode at the end of their lives, and the heavy elements they have created are blasted out into space to form the next generation of stars and planets.

Science in Personal and Social Perspective

Grades 8-11
Explore the impact of scientific knowledge and discoveries on personal and community health. Recognize how science influences human population growth, use science to analyze the use of natural resources by an increasing human population.

History and Nature of Science

Grades P-4
Examine the role science plays in everyday life.

Grades 5-7
Demonstrate the role science plays in everyday life: past, present and future. Science is a human endeavor. Men and women of various social and ethnic backgrounds engage in activities of science (to include careers in science). Scientists formulate and test their explanations of nature using observations, experiments, and theoretical and mathematical models.

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Last Updated: Tuesday, 09-May-2006 10:39:18 Eastern Daylight Time