A Midsummer Night’s AT


Awhile back J took an interest in science and, specifically, “star gazing”. AT Mom responded with this amazing art project.  While it may not technically be Assistive Tech, it is pretty darn cool.  Sometimes it really is just about discovering our children’s interests and making those things accessible to their imagination.  Planting a seed, or a spark, of creativity.  This is one of those projects.

Back to J’s interest in “star gazing”.  J’s school was currently working on a theme that involved “star gazing” and J was really interested in the activities at school.  Also, late at night we would allow J to watch some quiet time television as part of our bedtime routine.  The channel we watched (PBS Sprout) was running a particular commercial pretty regularly for “Dream Lites”.  Every time the song came on, J would quiet down and pay special attention to the commercial.

For those that do not know Dream Lites, they are a series of stuffed animals that have colored LEDs inside and a hard shell on top that has stars cut out of it.  When you turn them on, the LEDs turn on in a changing color pattern (yellow, green, blue – I think) and project stars onto the ceiling.  This gave AT Mom an idea.  What if we put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling for J to sleep under?

I chuckled and thought it was a great idea (little did I know what would happen next).  AT Mom was not finished.  A couple of days later some packages arrived.  They included a couple of glow-in-the-dark star sets as well as a 3D glow-in-the-dark solar system pack.

Now I knew I was in a little bit of trouble. Smile

AT Mom described her idea to me.  Using a tri-fold poster board (think science fair display), we would draw out (by hand) the constellations in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer night sky.  We would put glow-in-the-dark stars in place on the constellations, and add a few extra to fill the sky.  We would then attach the planets in the correct order, and somewhat proportional distance from the center of the board as if they were orbiting the center.  (For those detail oriented and perfectionists out there, we would use one distance scale for the inner planets and another for the outer planets.)

It was a great project and J loved it.  The solar system came with diagrams of the night sky of the two hemispheres in summer and winter.  This is what gave AT Mom the idea of being so accurate.

Summer Night Sky Project 008

Getting started on the project.  The Northern Hemisphere Summer diagram came with the solar system set.  The big star is the center and represents the sun.

Of course I took the accuracy a bit further.  I asked AT Mom to be sure and label the four corners with the cardinal directions from the diagram.  That allowed me to mount the project to the ceiling with the proper compass alignment.  (Have we lost you yet?)  AT Mom did all of the drawing of the constellations and some of the glow-in-the-dark star application.  I followed her drawing attaching the stars.  J kept us in line with smiles and encouragement.

Summer Night Sky Project 002

Finished with the constellations and stars.  Now to hang the planets.

When we finished with the constellations it was time to attach the planets.  AT Mom again led the way by doing the distance scaling and putting dots where she wanted each planet to hang (labeling the dots reducing that chance that AT Dad would hang the planets in the wrong order).  I cut 9 pieces of fishing line to the approximate same length  I attached each of these lines to a planet on one end (each planet had a loop just for this purpose) and a toothpick on the other.  I poked a hole at each dot AT Mom drew for me and pushed the toothpick attached to the right planet through each hole.  I could adjust the hang length of each planet by winding the fishing line around the toothpick.  When I had the hang lengths I liked, I used blue masking tape to fix the toothpicks flat in place (just in case).

Summer Night Sky Project 004

Planets added.  AT Mom took this photo from underneath while I held it up outside.  Yes, there are nine planets.  AT Mom and I still count Pluto – don’t be a Pluto Hater!

Then came hanging the project over J’s bed.  I did that one afternoon as a surprise for J.  I used the hangers commonly used to hang bathroom mirrors.  I used a total of 11.  The first 10 were because of the tri-fold presentation board.  I used 4 on each long side (2 on each center fold side, 1 on every short fold side), and 1 on each short side.  The eleventh was to reinforce a fold that had started to tear.  It was a “simple” process of using my compass to find magnetic North, holding the project up to the ceiling with the correct cardinal orientation, having AT Mom trace the outside of the project onto the ceiling, taking down the project, and attaching the hangers to the ceiling using drywall anchors.

AT Dads Place Photos 001

Here it is attached to the ceiling above J’s bed.  I used mirror hangers.

I know that to many people this may seem like a little over the top for an art project.  However, it only took J’s first reaction to staring up from bed at the stars and solar system overhead to make the effort worth it.  When we turned out the lights so J could see it all glow…  Pure joy!

AT Dads Place Photos 002

The view from J’s pillow.

J now enjoys a view of the summer night sky every night.  I have to admit that I get a kick of J’s joy every time I see it myself.  Oh, and remember the “Dream Lites” that helped start this whole thing?  The next time Nana and Papa came to visit, they brought J a little gift – a giraffe that projects even more stars on the ceiling.  Thank you Nana and Papa!

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Categories: Beginner, DIY, Low Tech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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