"Using the Outdoors to Make Academic Standards Fun!" Aldo Leopold Nature Center-June 13, 2001

Homework Assignment from Marcia Stockton, Huegel Elementary, Madison


I really enjoyed doing the tree measurement activities with Molly Murray and was thinking about ways to do some meaningful outdoor measurement with my kindergarten children. In kindergarten, children measure with non- standard units such as paper clips or Unifix cubes. They are also very egocentric, so activities that relate to themselves or their own personal experiences are always a good starting point when teaching new concepts. I thought up this activity without access to my files and resources at school and will certainly revise and add to it after trying it out with children. I would love any feedback! My e-mail address is mstockton@madison.k12.wi.us.


"How Do You Measure Up?"-Shadow Study

Materials needed:    White bulletin board paper
                                Crayons and colored chalk
                                Unifix Cubes
                                Data sheets, clipboards, pencils
                                Small standup objects or cardboard silhouettes
                                Large box for dark projection space


Objectives: Students will explore shadows using their own shadow outside at different times of day. They will use direct observation, measurement 1 data collection, and scientific reasoning to explore the nature of shadows.


Activities: These activities might be done over the span of one week. I thought that parts 1 and 2 would be most manageable with one-on-one help from our third-grade Reading Buddies (for tracing and accurate counting/measuring).

1. Inside: Have Reading Buddy trace kindergarten child's body with a pencil or crayon on bulletin board paper (laying down on the floor). Child should keep legs and feet together so that a straight-Iine measurement can be done from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Use Unifix cubes to make a tower as long as the child's traced body. Count the cubes and record on the data sheet. (The papers with traced bodies can be saved for Activity 4.)

2. Outside (Need chalk, Unifix cubes, data sheets): Each pair (Reading Buddy and partner) should find a space on the blacktop to trace and measure shadows (need space all around body). Child should make a circle with name inside where he or she will stand. With child standing with feet together on name, Reading Buddy should trace child's shadow on the blacktop at 9:00 AM. Measure the length of the shadow with cubes and record it on the data sheet. Do this again at 12:00 AM, and 3:00 PM. Suggest that measurement start at same spot each time (i.e. by toes). (These times may need to be adjusted to individual schedules. I thought it would be important to have it on the hour and a consistent time between observations.)

While outside, allow time for observations of others shadows. Gather and let children discuss the activity. What did they notice about their shadow? (Shadow moved, shadow got longer/shorter) Why? How was the shadow made?

3. Inside: Use a flashlight to project a shadow of various stationary objects or cardboard silhouettes. Change the location of the beam of light and observe the shadow. Allow children to share their observations/questions. Relate this demonstration to their shadow activity outside. What does the flashlight represent? Show the gradual movement that the sun makes across the sky by moving the flashlight beam in an arc over the object.

Allow children to try this on their own inside of a large box at Choice Time.

4. Preparation: Need bulletin board papers with traced bodies, pencils, data sheets, and Unifix cubes. Before activity, an adult can make a straight line across the bottom of the paper even with the bottom of the child's feet. Label below the line, 9:00 AM-Morning, 12:00 AM-Noon, 3:00 PM- Afternoon)

Small group with adult help: Use data sheet to make a Unifix tower for the 9:00 shadow. Place this tower next to traced body on bulletin board paper above the 9:00 label end even with the bottom line and make a mark at the top of the tower with a pencil. Connect bottom and top marks by tracing the tower or using a yardstick. Do the same with the 12:00 and 3:00 shadow measurements.

Independently: Children can color their traced bodies and these papers can be used for a hallway display. A title might be "Me and My Shadow"


Follow-Up Activities:

1. Check shadow in the same place at the same time on another day. Share observations/questions.

2. Show children a sundial for telling time. Some children may try making their own sundial for an extension.

3. Choose shadows of things outside (tree, flagpole, playground structure, prairie plant) to measure with length of body's shadow at the same time of day. Use Unifix cube tower for measuring tool. "How many of me is this?" "How are shadows of living things the same/different from shadows of non-living things?"

4. Observe/measure the shadow of the same object in different seasons.


Assessment Rubric :

Child will understand that...

Minimal:         Light shining on an object casts a shadow.

Outside, in the daytime, the sun causes shadows.

Basic:         Shadows outside change length and direction during the day

Proficient:     The location of the sun in the sky affects the length and

direction of shadows outside.

Advanced:     The sun's location in the sky is related to the time of day. The sun can be used to tell time.




Name: __________________ Date:____________


Shadow Math Data Sheet


Measurements with Unifix Cubes:

______My Body


______My morning shadow at 9:00 AM.


______My noon shadow at 12:00 AM.


______My afternoon shadow at 3:00 PM.



My longest shadow is at________ .


My shortest shadow is at ________.