DIY Sundial (FIL)


Challenge of the Week: Create a sundial with a paper plate (the “Chinet” style works best), straw or pencil, tape, glue and decorations.

If you will be with your children / students for a full day AND it’s a sunny day, here’s the process: Poke a hole in the center of the plate. Tape a pencil or straw or dowel upright in the hole. Take the plate outside and set it in a sunny place. Draw an arrow to the side of the plate, mark it as south, and set the plate so that arrow is pointing south.

Every hour, on the hour (9:00, 10:00, etc.), check the shadow, mark a line where the shadow falls, and write the time. Repeat on the hour all day long till your sundial is complete. The next day, check it again to show that it’s still working. You can pick up and move the sundial to other places, as long as every time you set it down, you always point your arrow to the south. (More info on this project at: or

If you want to do the project quickly, and it’s not a bright sunny day, you can also use a template.

This template was created in Seattle, latitude 47 degrees North, near the equinox, so will be most accurate there. We put the pencil in the center of the plate, slide on the template, then the child marks off the times. Then we remove the templates and they decorate their sundials. You can use a flashlight to illustrate how as the sun moves through the sky, the shadow shifts to indicate the time of day.

We have lots more hands-on science activities about Light and Shadow. Or you may also be interested in our DIY Weather Station.

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