Shadow Science for Groundhog Day!

groundhogI am all about teachable moments.  I’d like to think when Allie asks me questions, I somehow incorporate science into my answer.  But then I have these moments of inspiration – especially around the holidays!  And what better holiday to teach my kids about shadows but Groundhog’s Day?!  This was also the perfect activity to start with the kids while I was making dinner (frozen pizza).  Hey, you do what you’ve got to do at 6:00pm!

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I made a quick shadow box using an old Amazon box and a flashlight.  I cut a hole big enough for a flashlight which made a “stage” for her plastic animals.  I love that Allie put a lamb and dinosaur standing under a giant heart together.  I’m so glad they can put away their “Jurassic Park” differences to play shadows.


Of course, Allie got very excited about the flashlights in the dark so she decided to put on a fairy show.  She thought her fairy shadow was pretty neat.


Andrew wanted to share in all the fun which meant sitting on the shadow box.


Then we decided to put some white paper up as a screen so she could trace the shadows.  This time she made a scene with a lion, a lamb, and a cupcake.  Classic.

The Science:  Here are the things we discussed:

  • Shadows are made when an object blocks out light.
  • When the animals were close to the flashlight their shadows got bigger.
  • When the animals got farther away from the light, their shadows got smaller.
  • Then we talked about different ways shadows are made by the sun, like her shadow outside was when her body blocks the sunlight.
  • Finally, we talked about how a tree’s shadow makes shade when the tree blocks the sunlight.

The pizza was almost done cooking so I showed the kids this great video about Groundhog’s Day.  It’s super cute and I learned that woodchucks are groundhogs!  I had no idea, did you?  Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments, 5 minute experiments Tags: , ,
What is Winter Solstice?

wintersolsticeToday December 21, 2014 is the first day of winter  also known as winter solstice. But what does that mean?  Unfortunately, for all of us busy shoppers in the Northern Hemisphere it means that it is the shortest day of the year.  In Houston the sun will set at 5:27 PM!  It will be the longest night of the year with the sun rising at 7:13 AM.

Why do the season change?

Earth is tilted on it’s path around the sun. During the winter solstice the south pole receives the most warmth from the sun and for the northern hemisphere receives the least. The opposite is true for the summer solstice.  This is why winter is cold and summer is hot.  Did you know during winter solstice that the north pole will be in total darkness for 24 hours?  That must be a challenge for Santa’s elves as they prepare for Christmas!


How to explain this to kids?

I wanted to explain this to Allie, so I found an amazing Seasons Interactive at McGraw-Hill. You can find it here. In this interactive you can watch the earth orbit around the sun (which affects seasons) and spin on it’s own axis (which causes day and night).  This interactive even shows you how the temperature changes based on the distance from the sun.

After we played with the Season Interactive, we attempted to make our very own Tinker Toy solar system complete with a battery powered ‘tea-light’ sun.  It’s hard to conceptualize outer space, earth’s orbit, and the rotation of the earth around the sun – but it’s a start!  The kids enjoyed playing with the tea lights and pretending the Christmas tree lights were stars in outer space!

Welcome winter!  We’re ready for the cooler weather here in Texas!


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