This lesson plan will help teach students why shadows change directions throughout the day. It is important for students to understand the concept of sunlight and how it affects shadows. Not only does this cover NGSS standards, it also helps students better appreciate and understand their environment. Plus, I have a free printable flip book that you can use alongside this lesson to teach why shadows change directions throughout the day.
Introduce Shadows & Their Changing Directions
To begin, explain that when the sun rises in the morning, it projects light in one direction that casts a shadow in the opposite direction. As the sun moves through the sky during the day, it projects light in different directions. This casts a shadow that changes the angle at which it is pointing. To help demonstrate this concept to students, teachers can conduct an easy experiment using two chairs or desks and flashlights.
Do a Simple Experiment to Show How and Why Shadows Change Directions
First, have students sit facing each other in two chairs or desks.
Next, give one student a flashlight and have them point it at the other student’s desk or chair.
Then, ask the student with the flashlight to move around the room in a circle while keeping their flashlight pointed at the other person’s chair or desk.
Finally, ask the other student to pay attention to the shadows that are cast on their chair or desk as the flashlight moves around them in a circle.
Through this experiment, students will be able to see firsthand how the direction of light changes and how it causes shadows to change directions as well. This will help them understand why shadows move and how the sun’s position impacts the way shadows are cast.
I recommend using a globe to help further model the connection between students moving around chairs and the Earth’s rotation affecting the way the sun is cast on the Earth. Students may not make this connection on their own.
Now that students have a better understanding of the concept, they can go outside and observe shadows in movement throughout their environment, helping them to appreciate and understand the impact of sunlight on our daily lives.
This is a great way to illustrate the concept of how shadows change direction in an engaging and accessible manner. Teachers can use this experiment as part of a larger lesson or as a standalone activity to help students understand why shadows move.
Download this free flip book on the changing directions of shadows to use alongside the lesson above.