As we approach the shortest daylight hours of the year, it’s a perfect time for kids to explore how shadows are made. All that’s needed is some chalk, a smooth paved surface and a sunny day. Plan this as a before and after project; in the parking lot as a pre- and post-hike activity, in the driveway before Thanksgiving dinner and after dessert, or at school in the morning and at pick-up time. Encourage your kids to don a goofy hat with spikes or wear a skirt with ruffles, anything that would cast an interesting shadow.
Ask your crew who wants to be the first “Shadow Maker” and who wants to be the first “Shadow Catcher.”
Tell your shadow maker to stand with her back to the sun. Ask her to move her arms and legs, to watch how her shadow follows. Encourage her to stand tall, crouch low, be a tiger, a ballerina, a one-legged juggler. Then have her pose in whatever she feels inspired to be. Stand still now!
Then ask the shadow catcher to use chalk to trace around the shadow. Be sure to include the feet. When done, write the time at the base of the shadow and ask the shadow maker to initial her image.
Now switch roles for “maker” and “catcher.”
Before leaving, point out the sun’s position. Use words that are meaningful, like “the sun’s touching the edge of our chimney” or “the sun is right above the middle of the lake. (street, school)”
Discuss what might happen to the shadow while you’re gone. Younger children are typically not aware that the “sun changes position.” Older kids, 9 to 12 years, are just beginning to understand that seasons are caused by changes in the earth’s angle to the sun as it follows its path around the sun throughout the year. So keep the talk light and exploratory.
Two to four hours later return to the same spot. Your kids will be eager see what happened to their shadows. Have the first “shadow maker” stand exactly where she stood before. What happened? You’ll probably hear these kinds of observations: “Look how long my legs got!” “My arms are gigantic!” “I’m so tall now!” Turn around and notice where the sun is now. Let your kids describe what happened to their shadows. They’ll want to record their new, “taller, longer” image, so give your shadow catcher the chalk.
Keep that chalk in the car – shadow making and catching is fun any time of year.
The paved parking lots at Bear Creek Regional Park, “Best Hike” 23 and Fountain Creek Regional Park, “Best Hikes” 24 are perfect settings for your Shadow makers and catchers.
I’d love to read your comments about Shadow Making Fun and I’ll post your photos at my facebook.com/BestHikesWithKidsColorado.