Saturday, November 12, 2016

Constellations and a Review: Artec Paper Craft Planetarium

Finally, we found a star projector that was actually educational! However, it fell apart after two weeks. If you use any of Artec's products, be prepared to supplement their glue and sticky tape with better glue and tape. Because this particular one had some impressive features, I went ahead and wrote up this long review anyway, and at the bottom I'll mention a few other books and printables about Constellations.

Usually I see projectors that project random stars and we wanted constellations, or I see DIY instructions that involve removing the mirrors from flashlights and that kind of thing. This Planetarium shows you what the constellations look like at different times of the year so I was excited to try it out.

However, this kit is not for everyone.
At the ArTec Website

Long story short, it says 8+ for a reason! More like 30+ if you are not used to putting things like this together. Expect this project to take at least an hour to build. "We" used a hot glue gun to reinforce the double-sided tape that came with the kit. We did not even attempt the school glue because I hate that kind of glue. The tubular part of the projector was the most challenging.

On the other hand, the "craft" part is one of the things that I find appealing. Talk about developing motor skills!

I LOVE that this thing is not a hunk of plastic that you just switch on. My oldest was very excited about wiring up the battery compartment (!!!) and the lightbulb. When you wire something like that yourself, it's even more magical when it works! I've looked into designing our own electronic experiments without a kit like this and my brain imploded. The downside is that the final product is more delicate than a pre-made product.

The instructions were adequate... We did get the thing together so they can't be that bad. I felt that the print was a little small (haha, I'm old!) and the diagrams could be clearer. But reading instructions like these is not my strong point. Just know that your child may need help with this aspect if they're like me.

We also LOVE that each constellation is numbered and there is a corresponding list in the instructions. We'll be having fun looking up each constellation to expand this topic.

You also use a push pin, not included, or a safety pin like we did to punch all the holes in the constellations. This was oddly satisfying for us both.

So, this may not be the best kit to start with if your child is still developing fine-motor and instruction-reading skills.

Shipping is expensive on their website. Some of these kits are also available at regular stores at a slightly higher price, which is much less than you'd pay for shipping. There are many kits available on amazon as well like this obstacle-avoiding robot (not to mention The Robot Book which we like for DIY projects) and these constellation playing cards... aaahhh! Excuse me while I go add to the childrens' wishlist!

We checked out some neat books, including Find the Constellations by H. A. Rey. My kids love Curious George and this book is a higher reading level which is perfect for my seven-year-old. This book is very thorough.

Our other favorite was Glow-in-the-Dark Constellations by C. E. Thompson. This one is a field guide, so it's wonderfully concise while still packing in a lot of information about what constellations to look for in different seasons.

Now we're printing out constellation dot-to-dots from Almost Unschoolers where you can find more book recommendations as well. has a good overview of the basic constellations. Enchanted Learning has more constellation dot-to-dots although you do have to be a member. With the books we have, I think I'll make a few of our own dot-to-dots. When we went to the science museum's Astronomy Days, they had a neat activity where they taped illustrations of the constellations to the inside of a tent's roof, then sent us in to identify/match the constellation handed to us.

Then there's this easy paper telescope craft with printable constellation cards - no flashlights necessary.

Constellations are so much fun!

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