Creative Ways for Kids to Learn the Science of Shadows

Every Groundhog Day, a furry rodent pops out of its burrow and predicts the start depending on whether or not it sees its shadow. The holiday always reminds us of the wonder of shadows, so we wanted to know if this century-old superstition was inspired by any actual science. 

Way before weathermen and women graced our television screens and weather satellites circled in space, people turned to animals for signs of what was to come. Groundhogs go into hibernation in the late fall and emerge in early spring, so their departure and arrival signaled the start of a new season. Male groundhogs tend to pop out in February for a brief above-ground greeting and then burrow back down for another month or so. And that habit is likely why Groundhog Day falls in February. So, there is a tiny dose of science behind the tradition but it has nothing to do with seeing shadows.

Nevertheless, this quirky holiday is a great excuse to teach kids about the science of shadows! Here are five shadow-filled projects to keep your kids learning as we patiently (or impatiently) await the arrival of spring.

Groundhog Sundial

Who says groundhogs are the only ones who can read shadows? Use this printable DIY to teach your child to read measure time with the sun.

Learn more: Groundhog Sundial

Shadow Art

Sometimes shadows are more complex than you might think. Trace the pattern of the shadow made from a mason jar for a beautiful abstract piece of artwork!

Learn more: Shadow Art

Shadow Chalk Experiment

Ever wonder what happens to your shadow during the day? This video will walk you through an activity to determine just that. Trace your shadow in chalk and watch it change position over time!

Learn more: Shadow Chalk Experiment

Shadow Puppet Theater

In this project, you’ll put different shapes in a clear sandwich bag and shine a flashlight to stage a shadow puppet scene. How do the shadows change when you add or remove shapes? Find out in this science and storytelling project!

Learn more: Shadow Puppet Theater

Hand-Crank Flashlight

You can’t make shadows without light! Use this crate to assemble your own hand-crank flashlight, great for outdoor adventures, emergencies, or just battery-free fun. 

Learn more: Hand-Crank Flashlight

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