Children will develop math skills including measurement, estimation, and prediction.
- Colored chalk
- Yarn, string, plastic links, a tape measure, and other measuring tools
- Masking tape
- Experience-chart paper
- Markers or crayons
On a sunny day, go outside together for a shadow hunt. Look for shadows made by trees, play structures, furniture, and, of course, people. Encourage children to play and experiment with their own shadows.
- Ask children to pair up to trace their shadows. Show how one child in each pair can stand in the sun on a hard surface (or on natural paper if you're inside), while the other child uses chalk or a pencil to trace the shadow.
- When children finish, ask them to trade places so everyone has a shadow tracing. Suggest that they write their names in their shadows.
- Encourage children to think of ways to measure the shadows, then invite them to test out their ideas. Have a variety of measuring tools handy, such as yarn, string, and plastic links.
- Help each pair measure their shadows using the material they chose. One child can hold the yarn or other material at the head of the shadow tracing while the other stretches it to the bottom. Then, help the children cut it so that each child will have a length of material that represents the length of his or her shadow.
- Encourage children to predict whether their shadow lengths are longer, shorter, or the same as their own bodies, others' shadows, and other objects they see. Show them how to compare lengths of their materials against those objects to test their predictions.
For younger children: Take large sheets of craft paper outdoors. Have children take turns lying on the paper. Trace and cut out the outlines of children's bodies. Later, bring paint cups and brushes outdoors and invite children to paint their paper "shadows."
For older children: Encourage children to hunt for outdoor objects (sticks, rocks, weeds) they can use as instruments to measure their shadows.
Observation: How much did children in each pair cooperate and share ideas during the activity?