Creative Ways for Kids to Learn the Science of Shadows

Every Groundhog Day, a furry rodent pops out of its burrow and predicts the start depending on whether or not it sees its shadow. The holiday always reminds us of the wonder of shadows, so we wanted to know if this century-old superstition was inspired by any actual science.

Way before weathermen and women graced our television screens and weather satellites circled in space, people turned to animals for signs of what was to come. Groundhogs go into hibernation in the late fall and emerge in early spring, so their departure and arrival signaled the start of a new season. Male groundhogs tend to pop out in February for a brief above-ground greeting and then burrow back down for another month or so. And that habit is likely why Groundhog Day falls in February. So, there is a tiny dose of science behind the tradition but it has nothing to do with seeing shadows.

Nevertheless, this quirky holiday is a great excuse to teach kids about the science of shadows! Here are five shadow-filled projects to keep your kids learning as we patiently (or impatiently) await the arrival of spring.

  • Visual aid of how to complete Groundhog Sundial

    If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on February 2nd, that means we might get six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, that means we might get an early spring. Either way, get excited for the sunny summer months by heading outside to learn how to measure time with a sundial!

    Download the printable here.

  • Visual aid of how to complete Shadow Art
    Shadow Art

    (Ages 5-8)

  • Visual aid of how to complete Shadow Chalk Experiment

    Kids are always fascinated by their shadows and, as a parent, it's such a joy to see them interact with themselves. This shadow chalk experiment is a great way for kids to understand how shadows work and also how the sun moves across the sky throughout the day.

    One child is the model while the other child (or parent) traces their shadow as it shifts throughout the day. See what silly shadow poses your child can make!

  • Visual aid of how to complete Shadow Puppet Theatre

    Learn about shadows and light! In this project, you’ll put different shapes in a Ziploc® brand sandwich bag and shine a flashlight to stage a shadow puppet scene. What happens to the shadows if you move the light closer or farther from the bag? How do the shadows change when you add or remove shapes? Find out in this science and storytelling project!

  • Visual aid of how to complete Hand-Crank Flashlight

    You can’t make shadows without light! Use this crate to assemble your own hand-crank flashlight, great for outdoor adventures, emergencies, or just battery-free fun.

Get inspired!