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Equatorial Sundial

Source Institutions

    The University of Texas McDonald Observatory

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Equatorial Sundial

In this activity, learners make an equatorial sundial, which is simple to construct and teaches fundamental astronomical concepts. Learners use the provided template and a straw to build the sundial. Then, learners take the sundial outside on a sunny day and measure the time at least fours time in one day. They also compare these measurements to the "clock" time. Learners can experiment with their sundials during different months as well. This lesson guide includes background information about Nabta, an Egyptian Stonehenge.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Map (optional)
  • Flashlight
  • Copies of page 19
  • Drinking straws
  • Scissors
  • Pens and paper for recording measurements
  • Clock or watch


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Light and Optics
    • Earth Structure
      • Earth, Moon and Sun
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
      • Days
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Technology
      • Information and Communication
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
    • Measurement
  • Physical Sciences
    • Light and Optics
      • Reflection and Refraction
      • Sunlight and Color
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and History

Informal Categories

  • Outdoor Activity
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Education and Outreach Office, McDonald Observatory


  • All Rights Reserved, The University of Texas at Austin, ©2008

Funding Source:

  • NASA (Space Telescope Science Institute, operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy), HST-EO-10861.35-A


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