Moving Shadows

Observe how shadows change position throughout the day.

Materials                                                                                                               

  • chalk in different colors (if you can draw on the ground)
  • crayons or markers in different colors (if you can’t draw on the ground)
  • large sheets of paper (if you can’t draw on the ground)
  • camera
  • chart labeled “How a Shadow Changes”

Key Science Concepts

  • Outside, the shape, size, and position of a shadow change over the course of the day as the sun’s position changes.

Vocabulary

Encourage children to use vocabulary related to shadows like sun and light and descriptive words like position, move, and direction. Emphasize science process words like describe, compare, observe, notice, record, predict, and experiment.

Directions

Note: Do this activity at two separate times during the day, ideally in the morning and afternoon. Tell children that you’ll be tracing shadows outside at different times during the day.

  1. Decide if you’ll have children use chalk to draw on the ground or if you’ll have them use crayons or markers on large sheets of paper spread on the ground.
  2. Bring children outside to a sunny area where there is a smooth surface (pavement, sidewalk, etc.).
  3. Have children use chalk to trace the shadow of an object they see on the surface (examples: slide or jungle gym on a playground, or a pole or fence). You can also have them use a stick to trace shadows in the dirt. (If you can’t draw on the ground, trace the shadow of an object on large sheets of paper.) Caution children not to walk on other children’s tracings.
  4. Return to the object one other time during the day to trace its shadow. Have them use a different color to trace the new shadow.   
  5. In the afternoon, after the children have finished tracing a second shadow, take a photo of each child’s shadow tracings to discuss later.

Reflect and Share

In the afternoon, after the children have finished tracing, ask,

  • How did the shadow change? (Did it move, rotate, grow, shrink, etc.?)
  • What’s different about where the sun was this morning and where it is now?
  • Why do you think the shadows change?
  • Do you think that other outside shadows also change throughout the day? Why? How could we find out?

Begin the “How a Shadow Changes” chart by writing down children’s observations about how shadows change and their ideas about why they change.