5-ESS1-2 Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky

If you are teaching the Next Generation Science Standards and are looking for phenomena ideas, you’ve come to the right place! I like to think about phenomena as lesson starters. They are photos or videos showing an observable event in the universe and are used to get kids thinking, asking questions, and discussing their prior knowledge. For more information about using phenomena, there is a handy printable guide and video here:

And now, on to our shadows phenomenon!

Do you see a caravan of black camels crossing the desert in this photo? At first glance it might seem so. But take a closer look and you discover that what you are seeing are the camels’ shadows. Since the photographer took the photo from above, you can only see the small, white tops of the camels!

Why do you think the camels’ shadows are so large? Have you ever seen other really long shadows? Have you ever been playing outside in the evening and noticed that your shadow is really tall like a giant? Have you ever noticed that at other times of the day your shadow is closer to your size or hardly there at all? Why is that?

The changes in the length of our shadows have to do with the position of the sun. Assuming you are standing still outside all day long, the sun would appear to rise and set. When the sun’s light is blocked while it is low on the horizon, either in the morning or the evening, your shadow will be longer. As the sun approaches midday, shadows become shorter and shorter until the sun is overhead.

Shadows also change in direction throughout the day. When the sun is behind you, your shadow appears in front of you. When you are facing the sun, your shadow trails behind you. If the sun is to your left, then shadows form on your right. If the sun is on your right, shadows appear on your left.


These excerpts are from the text: Keeping Track of Your Shadow by Michelle Negron Bueno.  Keeping Track of Your Shadow is found in, StarrMatica Texts: Science Your Way, a collection of informational texts written specifically to address every K-5 NGSS Performance Expectation.  All texts in the collection begin with a phenomenon photo and are written at six different Lexile levels, so all students can read the same content at their reading level.  You can find out more about StarrMatica Texts:  Science Your Way here:

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