Week 2 – Open-ended exploration of shadows

As we continue our study of shadows, this week the children watched the PEEP episode, Night Light on our classroom computer. They viewed it in pairs throughout the day. There was a tremendous amount of laughter and discussion going on. One of the comments included, “It’s just like us. They are playing with shadows just like us!”  By far the favorite part of the short animation is when Peep and Quack use a pocket watch to divert the light and change the shape of their shadows.


In terms of the science inquiry cycle, we are now in “Explore” mode, and we started with open-ended investigations, meaning I set up an overhead projector and screen and let the kids freely explore things. The scene from the video clearly provided new inspiration for the children: They began experimenting with the projector, using their hands to make shadows appear on the screen. They also made use of paper shapes. In order to advance their inquiry, I asked questions such as “What do you notice?” “How did you do that?” “Why is it blurry?” The children did further testing by moving the objects about. Some children spent a great deal of time manipulating objects and observing their results. They found that turning an object changed the shape of its shadow, and they detected differences in clarity when shapes were moved closer and further away from the light.

On the third day of free exploration, one of the children made a fantastic discovery. He found he could adjust the mirror on the projector and send the shadows to the ceiling! A small crowd gathered around him to find out how he had done it. I allowed him to demonstrate and asked him to explain what he had done. “Tip it up, like this…” he explained. “It makes the light shine up this way and up to the ceiling.”


I used this opportunity to reinforce one of our science vocabulary words – direction. “Oh, so you’re saying that when you shine the light from a different direction the shadows appear in another place.” “Yes,” he agreed, “the mirror has to be straight up”.  This tells me that the children are doing more than observing; they are trying to make sense of their observations and they are connecting the cause and effect relationship.  It is soon time for a conversation to help children reflect on their experiences to date!

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