Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Getting Ready: Light and Shadows


Preparing Your Classroom Environment

  • Images of shadows, light sources, the Moon and Sun, etc. 
  • Have a camera ready. Taking photographs of the shadows and shadow exploration is a great way to keep a record.


žMaterial selection

  • A variety of objects with unusual shapes to create the shadows
  • Flashlights
  • Darkness
  • A sheet or a white wall to project shadows with an overhead projector. Interactive white boards are an excellent space for creating shadows.
  • Transclucent color paddles or translucent cellophane

Craft sticks, cut-out shapes and some tape are all you need to create simple Shadow Puppets

žSpace available

  • Think of ways to darken your classroom. Draw the blinds, put up temporary covers over the windows.
  • If your classroom is too bright, create a shadow fort for your students!
  • Use a blank wall and an overhead projector or smartboard to cast shadows on the wall.


Displays of student learning

  • Create silhouettes with your students. Silhouettes are a great way to study shadows, and can be displayed for families. Try to guess who is who!
  • Post photographs of shadows, including your students' shadows.
  • Have students trace shadows and post them.


žResources that help students wonder

• Books about shadows, such as Moon Bear's Shadow, by Frank Asch. 
• Unusual objects
• Begin discussions about day time and night time. When do we see shadows? Why?


About Light and Shadows

Light and Shadows is a great introduction to understanding space, but exploring the Earth, Sun, and Moon in space can be abstract for young learners. (Hey, it is for adults too!) What’s appropriate for young children is to start by helping them notice the world around them. Here are some ideas to help guide them:

  • Moon Journal – observe the Moon each night. How does it change? Draw what you see.  Do you ever see the Moon during the day?
  • Does the Sun change during the day? Remember, never look directly at the Sun! 
  • Students may ask why the Moon and Sun change. For the science of the movement of the Earth, Sun, and Moon, check out The Science of Light and Shadows. For more information about the seasons, check out our post about "The Science of The Seasons."
  • Read stories about the Moon and the Sun. 

Students will learn more about shadows in nature during Focused Exploration.