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Groundhog Day With Your Own Shadow



  • Mathematics
  • Science
    --Life Sciences
    --Space Science
  • Social Studies


  • K-2
  • 3-5


Brief Description

Learn about the sun by measuring your shadow throughout the day.


Students will

  • accurately measure the length of their shadows at least three times during the day.
  • understand the connection between shadow's length and the sun's position.


sun, shadow, measure, sundial

Materials Needed


  • chalk
  • a ruler, yardstick, or tape measure

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students learn about shadows and how the position of the sun can impact the length of a shadow. This lesson must be performed on a sunny day on a blacktop or concrete area of the playground.

For this activity, students work in pairs. (If there is an odd number of students, one group can have three members.) Provide each pair of students with a piece of chalk. This activity should be done at three different times throughout the day, preferably on the same day.

  • The first time, arrange students over the paved play area. Have them use chalk to sign their names on the pavement by the positions they take. Then have them mark an X next to their names, and stand on that X. Have each student mark the spot where her or his partner's shadow ends, and measure the length of the shadow from the X to the end of the shadow. Mark that length and the time of day by the end of the shadow. Also, have students note the approximate position of the sun in the sky.
  • About two hours later, repeat the activity. Have students stand on the X in the exact same position stood in when they made the previous measurement. Mark the end point of the shadow and the time of day, just as in the first step. Measure and mark the length of the second shadow. For each student, determine the difference in the lengths of the two shadows. Also, have students note the approximate position of the sun in the sky. Has the sun's position changed since the first measurements were made?
  • About two hours later, repeat the activity; mark the time, the end point of the shadow, and length of the third shadow. Determine the difference in lengths of the three shadows. Also, have students note the approximate position of the sun in the sky. Has the sun's position changed since the earlier measurements were made?

Have students complete a chart showing the times, shadow lengths, and the differences among shadow lengths. Then make time for students to share the results of the experiment with their classmates. Discuss why the shadow lengths changed from one time of day to another. Do any students connect the shadow measurements to the fact that the sun's position in the sky also seemed to change throughout the day? Help students understand that the position of the sun is the determining factor in the length of the shadow. The sun's position changes throughout the day. Since their positions (when measuring their shadows) did not change, the sun's position was responsible for the differing positions and lengths of their shadows.

As a follow-up activity, have students predict, note, and measure the lengths and positions of the shadows of other objects on the school grounds -- for example, the school itself, the flagpole, a tree

Extend the Lesson

Make a Sundial
Extend the lesson by making a sundial with students. The following instructions should help:

Fun With Shadows
Have students further explore shadows by making hand shadow animals. You can find a complete list of online resources for making hand shadows on our Groundhog Day resource page.



Have students write a paragraph explaining the activity they completed and what they learned from it.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

MATHEMATICS: Measurement
GRADES Pre-K - 2
NM-MEA.PK-2.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-MEA.3-5.2 Apply Appropriate Techniques, Tools, and Formulas to Determine Measurements

MATHEMATICS: Connections
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics

NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
NSS-G.K-12.6 Uses of Geography

Find more lessons for teaching about Groundhog Day on Education World's February Holiday Page.

Click to return to this week's lesson, Groundhog Day: Fill Your Day With (Punxsutawney) Phil Fun.

Updated 1/05/2015