Using a Sundial

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In this activity (on page 12 of the PDF), learners make a sundial (shadow clock) appropriate for their geographic location in the northern hemisphere and use it to tell time. This is an introductory activity in a guide related to the science of sleep and daily rhythms, but can also be used to explain how to measure time via the relative positions of Earth and the sun. This lesson guide includes background information, setup and management tips, extensions and handouts.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

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


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Digital thermometer with several sterile covers (and access to a fever thermometer at home)
  • Copy of student sheet (p. 20)
  • Source of natural sunlight, or fluorescent "grow light" with timer
  • 4 bean plants (purchase or grow in small pots from seed)
  • Study animals that can be observed in the classroom throughout the day (gerbils, birds, crickets, etc.)
  • Science journals or graph paper
  • Stopwatch or timer (if necessary)
  • Other materials as needed


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth, Moon and Sun
      • Days
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Animals
    • Ecology
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • Human Genetics
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
      • Circulation
      • Health and Nutrition
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Patterns
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Measurement
      • Rate
    • Reasoning and Proof
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
  • Physical Sciences
    • Heat and Thermodynamics
      • Heat and Temperature
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Gardening
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Moreno, Nancy P. ; Tharp, Barbara Z. ; Vogt, Greg L.


  • All rights reserved, Baylor College of Medicine, 2009

Funding Source:

  • NASA, NCC 9-58