Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Shadows are spooky and fun to play with. Candles in pumpkins and flashlights, not to mention glow sticks each cast different sorts of shadows that are great to observe and explore. Candles tend to cast softer shadows that move and dance and Jack-o-lanterns are famous for the shadows they cast from inside a pumpkin. (No need to remind parents to be careful around open flames.)

In the daytime, grab some sidewalk chalk and trace shadows outside. You can trace your own shadow or that of other objects. How do they change over the course of a day (or a playground session!)?

You can capture the shadow of an object by placing it on photosensitive paper or even dark construction paper. Draw what you expect the shadow to look like. Place the paper flat and put a flat object on it - keys, leaves, toys, paper clips, combs, or even paper shapes all work well. Don't move it once on the paper. For photosensitive paper, this happens quickly - just wait for the paper to change color and follow the directions to set. Construction paper (use non-fade resistant) may take longer but watch for the fading on the exposed section. Carefully take the objects off your paper. How do the actual shadows compare to your drawings?

In our Messy Fingers session this week, we also explored the idea of translucent objects. Most objects make solid shadows because the blocked the light completely. Some objects had colored shadows because they let some light through. We tried tissue paper in front of a flashlight and it gave a green shadow - very cool! What other objects are translucent?

Here are some other fun ways to play with your shadow!

Science Words: Light, dark, solid, big, small, translucent

Make a translucent sun catcher: You can purchase a kit at craft stores or make your own. Take two pieces of wax paper, cover one with small bits of tissue paper that overlap, then iron the sheets together. You can hang this as is, cut it into a sun shape, or make a “frame” by cutting a sun shape out of black paper, stapling the wax paper on to it and hanging your sun catcher.

Effects of light: Take a piece of newspaper and cut it in half. If you put one piece outside in a sunny spot and one piece inside in a dark spot, what will happen to them? Check in an hour, in a day, in a week…. What could be making the papers change color?

Shadow tag: Can you tag each other’s shadow? This game is fun to play with a few very bright light sources. You can do the flip and play flashlight tag – can you tag each other with a flash light? Remember: no flashlights in faces.

Shadow Shapes: Before bed, turn out all the lights and pull out a flashlight. Try to make funny shadows shaped like birds or planes with your hands in the light. How does your shadow change when you are close to the light compared to farther away? What if you have two flashlights?

Make Shadow Puppets: You can make different characters cut from coloring books or hand drawn and glue them on to craft sticks. Hold up a sheet or even large piece of butcher paper and shine a bright light toward it. Hold the puppets in front of the light and put on a play with their shadows. You can use colored cellophane or candy wrappers to make colored parts to your puppets.

Books on Shadows:
What makes a Shadow? Clyde R. Bulla
Bear Shadow by Frank Asche
The shape of Me by Dr. Seuss

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