Constellation Sensation

poem by Kate Rietema , illustrated by Jasmine Seymour

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to recognise that texts can be written from different perspectives so that I can understand how texts on the same topic can have different interpretations.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify the cultural perspective in a text and provide evidence to support my interpretation of the narrative voice.
  • I can learn contextual details about a different cultural perspective on a related topic.
  • I can compare the perspective in two texts on similar topics.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about how the people view the world through different lenses can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Perspective.

More information about how the concept of perspective should be addressed in Stage 3 (including how context shapes a person’s view of the world) can be found on the English Teachers Association’s page on Perspective.

Read the poem as a class, or if you prefer to listen to the audio recording.

After reading, revise the class understanding of perspective. Remember that students should understand that the world of a text is shaped by their own personal experiences and culture. Perspectives differ and therefore the values in texts will also vary.

Re-read the poem and as a class identify evidence of Kate Rietema’s cultural perspective. Some examples include:

  • A ‘dot-to-dot’ is a reference to an activity common in schools in the USA, Europe and Australia.
  • The Dragon (Draco), Hero (any one of a number of heroes in Greek mythology), King (Cepheus) and Queen (Cassiopeia), Big Dipper (Ursa Major), Herdsman (Bootes), Small Northern Crown (Corona Borealis) are all references to constellations first named in Ancient Greece and Rome. This indicates a Western / European cultural perspective.
  • Stargazing would be a popular pastime at her family run camp resort.
  • Discuss the value of stargazing for Kate Rietema. (This is also the message of the poem.) Student answers will vary but may include interpretations such as: it is fun to recognise images in constellations, the patterns of stars can become a game.

Explain to students that they will now read about a different cultural perspective on stargazing. Remind students that when considering different perspectives, the aim is to learn about the world, not to value or judge the beliefs of others.

Provide students with information about cultural astronomy through websites such as:

Also explain the definition of cultural astronomy (taken from Star Stories of the Dreaming, 2014):

These days, the study of the sky knowledge of ancient and traditional people is called “cultural astronomy”, and it looks at how the knowledge of the night sky was important in peoples’ culture, ceremonies, and daily life. Since Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been living for so long in Australia, they are considered to have the oldest continuous culture on Earth. If knowledge of the night sky was an important part of that culture, then they could also be considered to be the world’s first astronomers.

After conducting research on Aboriginal Astronomy, students should recognise some points of difference in the cultural perspective of Kate Rietema and different groups of Aboriginal Australians. (It is important to note that there is no one definition or understanding of Aboriginal Astronomy.) Some obvious differences are as follows:

  • The interpretations of the shapes of constellations.
  • For many Aboriginal peoples, the gendering of the Sun (woman) and Moon (man)
  • The cultural and religious significance of the stars (compared to stargazing as a game)

Extension: You may wish to continue the study of Aboriginal Astronomy to include looking for areas of similarity with European Astronomy knowledge, such as knowledge of the celestial pole, observations of eclipses, comets, meteors and aurorae.

Extension: Jasmine Seymour, who illustrated this poem, is a Darug woman and author. Her books, including Cooee Mittigar, Baby Business, Family and Open Your Heart to Country are rich texts to explore cultural perspectives.