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Shadow of girl swinging

Your Students Will Learn

  • What a shadow is
  • How shadows are made
  • How shadows move over time

Circle Time

Books: Shadow Bear by Frank Asch or Nothing Sticks Like a Shadow by Ann Tompert.

Activity: Start by reading one of the book listed above. Ask your students if they all have shadows. Does everything have a shadow? Do they like having a shadow? Do they think they can run faster than their shadows? Is there a time when they don’t have shadows (at night or when the sun is directly over head)?

A Classroom Activity: Shadow Dance

Supplies: Lamp with a 200-watt bulb—shade removed, an undecorated wall or white board or a screen or white sheet attached to the wall

Preparation: Arrange the room so the shadows thrown by your students can be projected onto a relatively clear space like one of those suggested above. Turn off the overhead lights and turn on the lamp.

Activity: Have a child stand in front of the light so his or her shadow hits the wall. Ask your students where the light is coming from and where the shadow is cast. Explain that the lamp is like the sun. The student’s body blocks some of the “sun’s light,” which creates a shadow in that form. Ask the child to come closer to the light. Explain that the shadow gets bigger because the student has blocked more of the light. Ask your students what will happen if the student walks away from the light, and now closer to the wall. Then test their theory.

Follow-Up: Let a few children come up and make their shadows look like they are touching each other’s shoulders even though the students aren’t actually doing that. Help another pair make their shadows look like they are standing on each other’s arms. And have another pair make a shadow with two heads, three legs, and four arms. Other students can make their shadows dance, make shadow puppets with their fingers, and so on.

An Outdoor Activity: Shadows on the Move

Supplies: Chalk, different objects to create shadows, sunny day

Preparation: Find a place where shadows are cast by trees or other objects and you can draw on the ground. If you need to, bring your own “shadow casters” from inside—a box, chair, hat stand, and so on.

Activity: Depending upon the age of your students, help them draw chalk outlines of the objects’ shadows, or do it yourself. Write down the time you drew it inside the shadow. Warn your students not to look directly at the sun, but to tell you where the sun is in the sky. Return 30 minutes or an hour later and ask your students what has happened to the shadows. (They have moved and changed shape because the sun is in a different part of the sky.) Draw new outlines with a different color chalk and put the new time inside. Repeat the entire process at least once more.

Follow-Up: Remind students that these shadows are created because something blocks the sun from shining on the ground. The length of the shadow depends on where the light is coming from.

A Bit of Science

A shadow’s length changes dramatically throughout the day. When the sun is near the horizon, around sunrise and sunset, shadows can be very long. When the sun is directly overhead, it looks like an object doesn’t have a shadow at all.


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