Telling time with sundials

Science in Action: Sundial Maker Activity

Sundials are the world’s oldest clocks, often created out of tall sticks (called gnomon, which is pronounced “know men”) and shadows. How does the shadow change over the course of the day? In this fun kids STEM activity, you will make a miniature sundial to put onto a spinning globe and learn how sundials work. Just add in a Sun (aka a desk light) and you are ready to watch the sundial tell time! Sundials are a great way to work on geography for kids, and one great project you can add to this is to look at the sundial in the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere. How does geography affect sundials? You will get to see for yourself!

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(Aka great talking points for you while you are engaged in the STEM project)

When did time begin? Sundials are the oldest known tools used to tell time. Sundials tell time by a shadow that changes its position over the course of the day as the Sun overhead moves from east to west. Egyptians were the first to create sundials, making theirs look like giant T’s. Later, Greeks created sundials that were marked to predict the time of day throughout the year.

A sundial building!
The world’s largest sundial resides in Jaipur, India, with the entire building creating a portion of the sundial that casts a shadow. This sundial can accurately tell time within 2 seconds, while the building houses 19 instruments for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars, and more.

Telling time at night.
Culture’s developed sand clocks, like the one’s we find timing game turns, to tell time at night!

Why do clocks run clockwise?
When you make your sundial, take a look at the direction the sundial’s shadow travels in the northern hemisphere versus the southern hemisphere. Where do you think sundials were invented?

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