Week 1: Outdoor Shadows

The plan is to go outside with the children and look for shadows. Beforehand, my science training prompted my using the Inquiry Cycle (Engage, Explore, Reflect). I decided to engage the children in small groups by using a KWL chart and listing their answers to the question, “What do you Know about shadows?” My role at this point is to observe and listen very carefully. The children generated this list: 

This activity helped me understand the children do have some prior knowledge about shadows. The child who posted, “You need to turn it on” was thinking about a flashlight. Some of the children were aware of outdoor shadows. Now we were ready for the challenge of step 2 in the Inquiry Cycle: Explore!

We went outside to look for shadows and I brought my camera along—a very important tool for me. Children immediately began to call out, “I see my shadow!” “There it is!” “Look at my shadow!” I watched as they experimented with positioning themselves in different ways to observe what would happen to their shadows. I asked some questions to  encourage the children to focus: “What else has a shadow? Does the fence have a shadow? The flagpole? The ladder?” Iliana noticed that when she jumped, her shadow jumped, too. She liked the way her shadow-hair bounced around.

Rhianalise found her shadow in several places including on the fence fabric. She noticed that her shadow was “bent”.


Jonathan and Dante worked together to make a “Partner-Shadow”



Jazlyn said “The shadows are bigger than the people.”

So, after that first day I had some information! I documented the things children noticed and we planned for the next day. I concluded by saying, “Tomorrow I will bring giant chalk so we can trace shadows”.

The next morning we had an overcast sky. Oh-oh, I’m going to have to tell the children there will be no shadows today. Then I caught myself…WAIT a minute! What am I thinking? One of the most important parts of teaching science is knowing when to stay quiet. Allowing children to make the discovery is central to the engagement and learning process. I didn’t comment about the weather, but allowed them to go out chalk in hand.
I noticed they gathered in an area where they had seen shadows the day before. I asked, “What’s going on?” One of the children complained, “Our shadows are gone! We can’t see any!” At this point I simply rephrased their concern. “You saw your shadows here yesterday. Today you cannot see them. I wonder why?” Many children had their eyes focused on the pavement or on the fence fabric. A few were looking toward the school building and one or two were looking up at the sky. After about 30 seconds, one child called out “The sun! The sun! The shadows are gone because the sun is not out!”

I never tire of sharing their AHA! moments!

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