STEAM Saturday – Build a Sundial! (6/17/2023)

DIY Garden Sundial Craft for Kids

Sundial planWe are back for another STEAM Saturday! With the official start of summer just around the corner, we are excited to bring you another educational “fun in the sun” project that your kids can use all summer long. You’ll be using natural items to build your own backyard sundial! This might not be the most accurate time-keeper in the world, but it will be an interactive ways to teach your little one about science, math, and shadows! You can even use this opportunity to learn about ancient civilizations!

Here’s what you’ll need to build your simple sundial:

  • A Stick
  • 12 Rocks or Sea Shells
  • Paint or Markers that won’t be affected by the weather (unless your mini-artist would love the opportunity to go out and draw the numbers back on when they wash off)
  • A Sunny Outdoor Spot (at least 10 to 12 inches in diameter)

Now that you have your materials, let’s make an ancient clock! First, find your sunny spot. If you have lots of shade in the yard, that’s ok. Just make sure to explain to your child that they may not be able to use the sundial during certain hours of the day.

Once you’ve found your spot, place one end of your stick into the ground with the other end pointing towards the sky. This is what is known as the gnomon. Over the next few hours, observe the shadow made by the stick to see which direction it moves in and see whether you need to adjust its position at all. This is a great opportunity for your child to get out some paper and a pencil/pen and record what they see. They can also write down their predictions for what direction the shadow might move.

During this time, your child can also be using their artistic skills to decorate the rocks or seashells and number them one through twelve.

Sundial Complete

As you are observing, you want to see the stick’s shadow to be shortest an noon when the sun is directly overhead. Once you see the shortest shadow, put a placeholder on that spot to mark it as 12 o’clock. Alternatively, if you have a larger dial clock in your house, once you know where 12 o’clock is, you can place your clock in the circle with 12 o’clock in the correct spot and use the hour markings on the clock to place your numbered rocks/seashells where they need to go.

You’ll have to check the gnomon’s shadow to see how far apart your hour markers need to be placed. You may have to widen or shorten your circle, and interestingly, your rocks may not all be the same distance from the gnomon. Now you’re ready to tell time!

Check out the full activity, the science behind it, and some wonderful book recommendations to accompany the project at KC Edventures HERE.

As always, get as creative as you want, and above all, have lots of fun learning together!

We’ll see you right back here next Saturday for another STEAM Saturday activity!  Scroll through the rest of our website to learn how Critchlow Adkins is Building Brighter Futures for the children and families we serve!

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