All about Sundials

Get ready to time travel. Our next bonus challenge is taking to you waaaaaay back in time…like, 3500 years back.


Students should have received their third adventure tool in the mail this week – a sundial.


For those of us who tend to run perpetually late in life, a time without clocks seems like a dream come true. But apparently, even back in 1500 BC, there existed those (annoying…did I really type that?!) always-punctual-to-everything people who needed to know every hour of every day…probably just so they could shake their heads as the rest of us arrive 5-minutes late to our kids’ soccer practices, or cello lessons, or gladiator trainings.

Enter sundials. Every known society developed their own version of a sundial, some more sophisticated than others. Sundials were, by far, the most popular method of time keeping until clocks were invented, and were used even as late as the 1840s because they were much more reliable than mechanical clocks. The Greeks are given credit for developing the sundial as we understand it today. To learn more about the sundial’s history, click here.


Your students are going to love our bonus challenges, but they may also want something more. Here are a few things you can do with your students to take their understanding of sundials and shadows to the next level:

  • The North American Sundial Society’s website teaches all about sundials used throughout history. Show your students some of the more interesting ones highlighted on that website.
  • Build a sundial. Use rudimentary materials and let your students create their own version of a sundial. You can also work as a team and create one in a parking lot or grassy field. You can learn about a group that recently did this by visiting the North American Sundial Society’s website.
  • Challenge your students to become a human sundial. Have them go outside at certain times and measure their shadow. How did their shadow change as it became later in the day? Did every student see the same or similar results?
  • Have your students put on a shadow puppet performance or play shadow charades. You can use the sun or shine a bright light behind a student who is standing behind a sheet.

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