First Grade NGSS
Light, Shadows, and Seasons

Design and collecting data on shadows and how they change from fall to spring



Locating the Sun in the sky.
Measuring shadows and collecting data.

·         angle
·         east
·         north
·         south
·         west

Shadow plates (plate, magnets)
Data Sheet Summary



This long term project helps students to see that the Earth does not travel in the same position.  The Sun changes orbit around the Earth.  It changes its location in the sky.  During the summer it is high from the horizon and in the winter it is low in the horizon. The position of the Sun in the sky will affect the length of the shadow. 

A shadow is an area where light from a light source is obstructed by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverses projection of the object blocking the light. Sunlight causes many objects to have shadows at certain times of the day. The angle of the sun, its apparent height in the sky causes a change in the length of shadows. Low-angles create longer shadows.  This exercise is to help them how to measure a shadow and as they collect data throughout the year, what does it mean.

The long term project is as follows:

QUESTIONS:  Does the shadow of the Sun change from fall to spring?

BACKGROUND: Students are collecting data that they measure.  Length of shadow of a “shadow stick” child should be put in a data book.  


EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: A site should be selected where maybe 5 students can be measured at one time.  Draw where the Sun is in the sky.  Probably should make a grid of sky.     Measurement should be either monthly or bimonthly. School has to decide to do in metric or English system.

CONCLUSION: Discussion should center on

·         what causes a shadow (sometimes gets in the way of light);

·         does it change during the year (yes)

why does it change.   (because of the angle of the Sun in the sky caused by the revolution of the Earth around the Sun and its axis)


1.    Ask the students which way is north. Many will say "up," as if the north pole is in the sky. Describing the direction of the north pole is difficult, because north, in and of itself, describes location.

With a globe show students where north and south  is located. 

Ask them again if north is up. It should now be clearer to them that north and south are directions on the Earth’s surface. 

2.    Ask the students from what direction the Sun appears to rise (the East). Ask them if they can use this knowledge to find North, West, and South. Go over this carefully with the students. West would be directly opposite east. North would be left of east-west line and south would be right of the east-west line. Ask the class in what direction the Sun sets (the West). Ask them what direction the Sun moves in the sky (East to West).

Go outside and see if students can figure out where the Sun rises.  That would be East, which is in the direction of Mission Peak.  Use your arms to show them that west is directly opposite… 180 degrees or a straight line. The Sun crosses from East to West in the southern part of the sky….   So South is 90 degrees away.  North would be 180 degrees from south.

3.  Point out that the globe is tilted, and explain that this is because the Earth is tilted on its axis relative to the Sun. Explain how this causes the seasons. Some students may notice that when the northern hemisphere tilts away from the Sun, the southern hemisphere tilts toward the Sun. Explain that our summer season is the winter season in the southern hemisphere.

4.  In the following activity students will learn how to record shadows.As their class project they will chart this through the months to determine if there is a change or not.

5. Go outside to the playground, and have the students find the shadow cast by a pole. If many shadows are available, divide the class into groups. Have the students outline the shadow, or a portion of it, with chalk.

6.  Make a shadow plate that students will collect data from.  (see example).  Use dinner plates and use two magnets.

7. Collect the data toward the end of experiment.

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