Groundhog Day is the ideal time to investigate light and shadows! Below is a compilation of shadow investigations I previously completed with my students.
A shadow is formed when a natural or man-made light source blocks an opaque object. Shadows can move and change. Bringing a light source closer to an object will make its shadow grow larger while moving the light source away will make it smaller. Try changing the angle of the light source. Move the light from left to right (imitating the rising and setting of the sun) and note how the shadow changes. What does the shadow look like when the flashlight (sun) is directly overhead? What would you see if two light sources were directed toward an object?
Bring a basket of items outside on a sunny day and place them on a white sheet of paper. Check back during the day and note how the shadow changes.
Hide objects from a child’s view and then project them onto the wall. Can your students identify what is creating the shadow? Turn the object on its side or stand it on its end. Does the shape of the shadow change? I used an old overhead projector to do this investigation, but you can also take the lampshade off a lamp.
Make a guessing game with cards. Place a picture on one side of the paper and its shadow on the back of the card. I made a collection of these in my early teaching days before we had copiers! I cut out pictures from coloring books.
Ask students to draw, color, and cut out an animal of their choosing while out of sight from classmates. Use clipboards to scatter your children around the room. While children are looking forward, place a light behind the animal and ask students to identify the animal from its shadow.
Form animals using hand shadows. Click here for the Safeshare link for the video below.
Did you notice the children’s silhouettes in the photos above? To capture children’s silhouettes, simply ask them to stand so that you can see their profiles on the wall. Take a photo of the silhouette, print it, or project it from your laptop and trace it. I remember trying to trace children’s silhouettes while they attempted to sit still! Another option is to trace around children, while they are lying down on bulletin board paper, with a white crayon. Display the opposite side, so lines aren’t visible.
Trace children’s shadows with chalk outside on sidewalks or a driveway periodically throughout the day. Measure the length of the shadows with measuring tape. Compare the differences.
Play the classic game of shadow tag when you are outside. Another fun shadow game is the mirror game. Find a partner. One person is the shadow. The shadow copies his/her partner’s movements.
Children will discover that light can pass through some objects which will lead to an exploration of transparent, translucent, and opaque objects. Children tested to see how much light traveled through a collection of materials in the investigation below.
It’s Almost Groundhog Day! Will the groundhog see its shadow?
To make this little puppet, attach a construction paper or fun foam groundhog to a stick and push the stick through the bottom of the cup, so that the groundhog (aka woodchuck) can move in and out of its burrow. Use a flashlight to demonstrate how the groundhog might see its shadow and respond according to the legend. A legend is a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated. (Merriam Webster)
Tune- I’m a Little Teapot (Poet Unknown)
Here’s a little groundhog, furry and brown,
He’s popping up to look around.
If he sees his shadow, down he’ll go,
Then six more weeks of winter- Oh, no!
When I was a teenager in Maryland, I often saw groundhogs. I’ve never seen one in the Atlanta area. Maybe digging in the red Georgia clay is just too hard!
As you listen to the videos below, listen for these vocabulary words: mammal, burrow, kit, incisors, rodent, herbivore, and hibernate.
Click here for the Safeshare link to learn about groundhogs.
In a previous post, I celebrated the tradition of first day hikes. I discovered this cocoon on my New Year’s hike. I wonder what formed this during metamorphosis and if the hole on top means it has already departed Maybe, it’s an egg case. I will need to do some more research.
My favorite Christmas traditions revolve around photos. When I decorate my home each year, I look forward to these decorations most of all! On my mantle, I hang a banner with clips, so I can attach past Christmas cards. As I clip on each card, the memories attached to each photo come to mind and bring me such joy.
On a side table in my dining room, I have family photos displayed. Behind each photo is another photo of my daughter with Santa. Each December, I just switch the photos, and I can easily switch them back after Christmas.
My friend, Debora, shared the next idea with me. She takes all the photo holiday cards she receives and places them on a ring after Christmas. Then she prays for friends and family throughout the year as she turns the photos on the ring.
When I first read this book, I believed the family was off to choose their Christmas tree, but there was a delightful surprise awaiting me. This charming story is sure to be a favorite with nature enthusiasts.
Start a new family tradition and make edible ornaments for the birds. One of my favorites is a pinecone covered with peanut butter (natural is best) and rolled in birdseed. Hang the pinecones with twine and in the spring, the birds can use it for nesting material.
Mistletoe is a plant that grows parasitically on trees. It extracts water and nutrients from the host plant. In the winter, the plant produces white berries. Use caution around children and pets because mistletoe berries are toxic.
What is the origin of the holiday tradition of kissing under the mistletoe? Mistletoe is considered a symbol of fertility and life because in winter, when deciduous trees have lost their leaves, and many plants have died away, mistletoe remains green. There are a myriad of myths and legends about the mistletoe plant throughout history.
When you hike or while you drive, ask your child to spot mistletoe growing in trees,
Many of us decorate our homes with poinsettias during the Christmas season, but what do you know about this plant?
Poinsettias grow wild in Central America and Mexico.
In their native environment, poinsettias are shrubs that grow as high as 10 to 15 feet tall.
Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first ambassador from the United States to Mexico, brought the plants to the United States in the 1820s, and they were named after him.
The colorful parts of a poinsettia aren’t flowers, but modified leaves, called bracts. The flower is the yellow center of the plant.
Click here for the Safeshare link for the following informative video.
Visit a nursery or greenhouse with your child to examine different varieties of poinsettias.
The Legend of the Poinsettia, from Mexico, is an excellent choice if you are studying Christmas around the world. Legends are traditional stories regarded as historical but with little or no evidence to prove them.
My daughter, a Covid bride, was married this year and we both wanted to save the lovely flowers from her wedding in June and her reception in November. I experimented with drying the flowers in my basement. When I saw these DIY ornaments at Michaels. I knew they would provide the perfect means to display some of the blooms. I’m excited about gifting her this keepsake ornament! What an easy way to preserve memories from a dance, anniversary or any other special occasion. Do you have any other ideas on how to use these flowers? Please leave your suggestions in the comments.
Note: Suspending flowers upside down in a dry, cool place helps to maintain their form while they are going through the drying process. It also allows the air to circulate around the petals, stems and leaves, preventing mold.