Shadow Play

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In this three part activity, learners explore and experiment with shadows to learn about the Sun's relative motion in the sky. Learners will trace, measure and compare their shadows over time, rotate around a lamp to mimic the Earth's daily orbit, and use a flashlight to simulate sunrise and sunset over an action figure. These activities can be combined as a comprehensive unit or used individually. If used individually, learning time will vary. This lesson guide also includes information about Sunwatchers, special members of the Pueblo tribe.

Quick Guide

  • Preparation Time: Under 5 minutes
  • Learning Time: 1 to 2 hours
  • Estimated materials cost: 1 cent - $1 per group of students
  • Age Range: Ages 4 - 11
  • Language: English

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Chalk
  • Outdoor drawing area
  • Lamp
  • Action figure and flashlight

Informal Categories

  • Outdoor Activity
  • Nature and Environment
  • Physical Activity


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Earth, Moon and Sun
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
      • Days
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
  • Physical Sciences
    • Light and Optics
      • Reflection and Refraction
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Formulating Explanations

To use this activity learners need to

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Education and Outreach Office, McDonald Observatory


All Rights Reserved, The University of Texas at Austin, ©2008

Funding sources

  • NASA (Space Telescope Science Institute, operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy), HST-EO-10861.35-A

Printed Materials

  • 2008. The StarDate/Universo Teacher Guide. Austin: McDonald Observatory Education and Outreach Office


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