In this lesson, students investigate what it takes to make a stationary object’s shadow move. In the activity, Moving Shadows, students use flashlights and paper gnomes to explore how moving the position of a light makes shadows move. Students relate these observations to shadows changing throughout the day and the Sun’s position moving across the sky.
You will need to do this activity in the dark with the lights off. We provide seven different Shadow Patterns, so we recommend setting up seven stations. You can choose to set up fewer stations depending on your space or the number of flashlights that you have available.
Set Up Activity Stations
For each station:
Cut out one of the paper gnomes. Fold on the solid lines at his feet and the tip of his hat.
Overlap the flaps at the gnome’s feet and tape him to the rectangle on one of the Shadow Patterns.
Tape the Shadow Pattern down to a table or desk.
Put a flashlight beside the gnome.
Find a Sunny Spot (Recommended)
If it’s sunny, you can watch how a shadow cast by the Sun changes over time—just by marking a shadow early in the lesson and checking on it later.
For this extension:
Cut out one paper gnome. Fold on the solid lines at his feet and the tip of his hat.
Overlap the flaps at the gnome’s feet and tape him to a blank sheet of paper.
Tape the blank sheet of paper down to a table or desk that will be in the Sun for the whole time you are teaching the lesson.
Outline the gnome’s shadow with a marker and write down the time in the center of the outline.
If it’s cloudy when you teach, don’t worry. We show the experiment in the video. You can watch the video and try the experiment yourself on a day when the Sun is out.
In this Read-Along lesson, Jada explores why her shadow changes over the course of a day at the beach. The lesson includes a short exercise where students act out the movement of shadows with their bodies. You can extend the lesson with the optional activity, Trace Your Shadow, where students trace their shadows using colored chalk and track the shadow’s changes throughout the day.
In this lesson, students develop a model of the sun’s daily path across the sky, then use this model to help someone who’s lost. In the activity, Sun Finder, students create a mobile paper model of the sun and earth to illustrate the position of the sun throughout the day.
In this Read-Along lesson, Arushi wonders why she has to go to bed while the sun is still up, and learns that the sun stays up longer on some days than others. The lesson includes a short exercise where students get moving by acting out a bedtime routine. If you want to extend the lesson, we provide a printable Summer Sunshine Reader that your students can color and use to practice their reading skills.