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Age Range: 7-11
Duration: 30-59 mins
  • Science

Halloween STEM activities - Make a sundial

Making a sundial

In this fun Halloween STEM activity for kids, students will learn how to use the Sun to tell the time. They will make a simple stick sundial in the school area, identify where the shadow is cast every hour and mark this with stone and chalk. The following day students can test their results to see if the sundial is accurate at telling the time.

Activity: Halloween STEM activities – Make a sundial

This is one of a set of resources developed to support the teaching of the primary national curriculum. They are designed to support the delivery of key topics within maths and science. This resource focuses on the making of a simple sundial built in the school grounds. This can be used to support learning of telling the time and to understand how light creates shadows.

This activity could be done as pairs or in small groups and could be used as a starter or main activity to the use of light in science. It may also be used to introduce geometry, position, and direction when using the stick to make a sun compass.

How long will this activity take?

This activity will take approximately 20-40 minutes to complete plus follow up.

Tools/resources required

  • Sticks
  • Stones/Pebbles
  • Chalk

 What is a sundial?

Sundials are one of the oldest timekeeping devices, with their origins dating back thousands of years to ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Greeks. The first sundials consisted of a simple gnomon, or pointer, that cast a shadow onto a marked surface to indicate the time of day. Over time, sundials become more sophisticated, with different shapes and angles of gnomons used to account for changes in the position of the sun throughout the day and year.

Sundials were widely used until the invention of mechanical clocks in the Middle Ages, after which they became more decorative and artistic objects rather than practical timekeepers. Today, sundials are still used as a symbol of timekeeping and can be found in many public spaces and gardens.

The engineering context

Solar engineers design and make solar energy projects, from large-scale ones to home rooftop installations. They need to understand how the sun casts a shadow during the day to make sure their solar panels produce enough electricity.

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this activity students will be able to make a simple stick sundial and use it to tell the time and they will have an understanding of how the shadow is created with the stick blocking the sun.

Download the free Halloween STEM activities – Make a sundial activity sheet below!

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your students’ and your schools’ needs.

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Please share your classroom learning highlights with us @IETeducation.

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