Science: Me and My Shadow

Really, we had so much fun with shadows that I thought it deserved its very own science post.  It’s just one topic in the heading of “light” but it was one which turned out to have lots of fun applications.  We mixed most of this in with light, but I think shadows get to be the introduction to light because they’re such an easy way in.  So more on light next week, but first, Shadows!

There are two unexpected children’s books that we read which I simply adored.  The first was photographer Tana Hoban’s Shadows and Reflections.  I’ve long been an admirer of Hoban’s children’s books, which are mostly wordless collections of her photography along a theme (her book More, Fewer, Less is probably my very favorite preschool math picture book, which is really saying something).  This book is exactly what it sounds like, but the conversation it can inspire, about what reflects and what distorts, about where the light comes from, about the relative size of things, and so forth, is just great for this unit.  There is another book which is similar to this called Guess Whose Shadow by Stephen Swinburne, which also uses photos to show the interaction between objects and shadows.  The second book is a wordless fiction picture book called simply Shadow by Suzy Lee, who also created the amazing book Wave.  This whimsical book uses shadows to reflect a young girl’s imagination, changing them and eventually letting them interact with reality.  It’s not science at all, but it was such a perfect fiction go along that I had to mention it.

For other books, Let’s Read and Find Out has a nice, simple title called What Makes a Shadow, which actually has surprising depth for a level one book in this series.  But even better was the book Me and My Shadow by Arthur Dorros.  This book was very much like the Let’s Read and Find Out title but with a lot more detail.  It tied shadows into the broader topic of light much better, especially by highlighting how the earth is in a shadow every night and how when we watch the moon wax and wane, we’re watching a shadow.

Finally, there’s a Boston Children’s Museum Activity book about Shadows called Shadow Play.  I adore this series, but we didn’t end up doing much from this book this time around, but I had it out from the library and I was appreciating it so I thought it was worth the mention.

For activities, again this week, I give most of the credit to my awesome friend who took over science activities while I was swamped with other stuff.  Also, again, I have a lack of cool pictures in part because I was tending a tiny baby and in part because I’ve gone through two phones in the last month and lost most of the pictures I took as a result.  The first and last thing the kids did that afternoon was to measure their shadows outside by each standing on one rock then placing another rock at the tip of the shadow.  Later on, they went back up there and measured again.  They could see that their shadows had lengthened over the course of a couple of hours.  And while it may sound trivial to us, it was pretty exciting to them.

In fact, while all our science topics have carried over into daily life, where we can talk about things like energy transfer and wave motion, this topic carried over especially well.  The kids played with their shadows and noticed their shadows all week.  Later in the week, they roped their friends into a game of “shadow tag.”  They were also so fascinated by the shadows created by the theater lights when we set up the stage for The Tempest that I really recommend getting several bright lights in a room (such as those traditional desk spotlights) and playing with them to create multiple shadows.  That allowed us to talk about umbra and penumbra, the two different shadows that are created when a light shines on an object.

The other big science activity we did with shadows was to make shadow pictures using sunprint paper.  There are other brands, but I stole the image here from the brand we used, which was Sunprint.  The kids gathered items from outdoors and arranged them artfully on the blue paper then allowed the sun to make a shadow.  When you rinse the paper in water it will reverse the colors, which is fascinating to watch.

Finally, if it’s not obvious, the best way to explore shadows is with a shadow puppet show.  Take that desk light and shine it onto a sheet suspended in a doorway and let the kids cut out shapes to make shadows for shadow puppets.  Or just use their hands to make more traditional shadow puppets with the shapes of their fingers.  Mushroom and BalletBoy have been at that for the last couple of weeks with a new excitement, thinking about shadows.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s