Children take pleasure in learning to measure!
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
To spark students' interest in shadows, try this activity for grades PreK-K in which students learn about shadows and then make and measure their own shadows.
These activities will help develop skills in the following areas:
- Math vocabulary words
- Craft sticks, at least three per student
- Rulers, at least one per student or student pair
- Shadow measuring sheets, one per student
Set Up and Prepare
- Create a shadow measuring sheet handout. This is where children will record their findings each time they go outside to measure their shadows. The sheet should include spaces to record at least three shadow lengths, each at a different time during the day: "My shadow is ___ at 9:00 a.m.," "My shadow is ___ at 1:00 p.m.," and so on.
- Before beginning the activity, show students how to use a ruler and let them practice measuring with it for a short time.
Step 1: Start the activity by discussing shadows. What is a shadow? How is it made? Where do shadows come from?
Step 2: When students finish contributing their ideas and thoughts, provide a few concrete examples of what makes a shadow. Be sure your students understand that a shadow occurs when something is blocking the light.
Step 3: On a bright and sunny day, take your class outside to measure shadows. What do they think their shadows will look like? Will they be big or small, tall or thin?
Step 4: Explain to children that they are going to become shadow experts by measuring their shadows at three different times during the day. Invite children to predict what will happen with the shadows.
Step 5: Model how to stand with your back to the sun. Invite a student to place a craft stick on the ground at the top of your shadow and another where you are standing. Then model how to measure your shadow with a ruler. Invite pairs of children to line up and measure each other's shadows.
Remember: Model using a ruler and let children practice before they begin the activity. If this standard measurement tool is too advanced for your children, use a nonstandard unit of measure such as their feet or long unit blocks which they can lay down in the shadow and then count.
Step 6: Go outside and record measurements several times during the day. How many rulers long is your shadow now? Did the shadow grow taller or shorter? Why do shadows change?
Step 7: Hold a discussion with children at the end of the day. When were their shadows the longest? Why were the shadows long and thin in the morning? When were they the shortest? Why?
Shadows are everywhere and come in all shapes and sizes. They can be plain and simple or very complex. Head out on a shadow hunt around the neighborhood. Look at all the beautiful shadows made from things children see every day. Challenge them to look for the tallest, skinniest, fattest, or biggest shadow they can find.
These books can accompany any lesson about shadows.