Making Shadow Sticks

Students will determine how the shadows change through the day by making a shadow stick or using a sundial.


1 Day


Inside and Outside

Collection Group




  • S2E2a. Students will investigate the position of the sun in relation to a fixed object on earth at various times of the day.
  • S2E2b. Students will determine how the shadows change through the day by making a shadow stick or using a sundial.


  • Paper plates (1 per student)
  • Bamboo Skewer or sharpened pencil (1 per student)


  1. Model for students how to fold their paper in half, then in half again to form a quarter circle. When they open their plate, the intersection of the fold lines is the center point.
  2. Lead students in placing the plate on the ground in an open area of the schoolyard and press the bamboo skewer or sharpened pencil through the center to stand up straight.
  3. Throughout a school day, visit the schoolyard with students to draw the shadows that can be seen on the paper plate and to note the time next to the shadow. Students can also use a compass (confirmed by their understanding of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west) to mark the cardinal directions on their paper plate.
  4. Engage students in a discussion about patterns – the direction and length of shadows at particular times of day, as well as the position of the sun at the same times. Students should recognize that shadows occur when something blocks the light of the sun and that shadows point towards the opposite direction from the position of the sun. Students may also notice that shadows are shortest at noon and longest near sunrise and sunset.
  5. Challenge students to explain how they could use this knowledge if they were lost in a meadow and knew they needed to walk north to get home. Further challenge students to explain how they could use their knowledge if they needed to be home at 4:00 PM but did not have a watch.

Explorations in this Collection


Creating a Sun Map of the Garden


Making Shadow Sticks


Telling Direction with No Compass


Telling Time With No Clocks