Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Open Exploration: Light and Shadows

Your Turn!

žMake shadows! Use all different objects that you can find. Use different light sources too.

Think about:

  • How you can change your shadows?
  • How can shadows move?
  • What different types of shadows can you make?

Draw what you see.

What questions about light and shadows do you still have? How was the documentation process helpful?


Beginning Open Exploration in Your Classroom

Now that you have had a chance to explore the materials, it is time to introduce Light and Shadows to your students.

Week 1: Observing everyday shadows and light.

  • Introduce light and shadows during circle time. What do students know about light and shadows? Ask them to list different things that make light and write them on a chart.
  • Show the students images of all different kinds of light sources.
  • For a literacy connection, read Frank Asch's Moonbear's Shadow or another book with shadows. 
  • Go on a neighbhorhood walk or a walk around your school. Where do the students see shadows or light? See if the students can find their own shadows. What if it were a cloudy or rainy day, would they see shadows? Why or why not? 

žWeek 2: Focused observing of shadows

  • Take students outside and observe shadows over the course of the day, then discuss as a class.
  • Let students explore indoor shadows with flashlights and paper, then discuss as a class.
  • Create one or two centers with materials slowly introduced. Table top shadow box, shadow and light wall, or a fort are great center ideas. 


These students explore shadows outside. 


Sample Conversation between Teacher and Student

Teacher: "What happened to your shadow when your hopped?"

Student: "It hopped in front of me."

Teacher: "Where is your face?"

Student: "I can't see it."

Teacher: "Why?"

Student: "Shadows don't have a face. My shadow is me."

At this point, students will mainly explore how shadows are created, and what determines the shape of a shadow.

žExploring translucency and changing shadow size will take place more fully during Focused Exploration.