Shadow Lanterns

Brief Description

Students build a circuit with a light and then use the light to light their lantern. They can explore how shadows are a type of art.


Engineering & Art

Grade Level



2 Hours Total

Lesson Objectives:

  1. Students will practice building circuits.
  2. Students will explore how to make interesting shadows.
  3. Students will make more connections between engineering and art.

Materials Needed:

    We had the students build the circuits using the following components. You may choose to use a different medium with your students. Just be sure that the lights are bright enough to cast a shadow on the ceiling, ground or wall.
  • Batteries (9V or 2 AA, 1 per pair)
  • Battery pack/connector (helps the students connect clips to the battery, 1 per pair)
  • Alligator clips (2 per pair)
  • Christmas lights (cut into individual lights, 1 per pair)

For the lanterns:

  • Scrap paper to practice
  • Construction paper for the final lanterns
  • Additional craft supplies (tape, markers, scissors)

Preparation and Set Up:

  • Gather necessary materials. Check that everything works properly.
  • It is helpful to bring in samples of lanterns.

Necessary Background

Students must know how to build complete circuits.


  1. Divide the students into pairs, distribute materials and instruct them to build a circuit to light up their light. (10 mins)
  2. Once each group has a working light, discuss how light can be used in art. You may think about stained glass, christmas lights, shadow puppets, lighting in a museum. It is helpful to show examples (see References for interesting shadow art). (10 mins)
  3. You may choose to do the lantern part in pairs or as individuals. Art is more personal than an engineering project so you may want to give students the option to work on their own. Pass out scrap paper and have the students do rough drafts of their lanterns. What shape are they going to make them? How big are the cut outs going to be? Students should test using their own lights! (30 mins)
  4. When each student (or pair) shows you their plan, give them a piece of construction paper. Remind the students that they should cut carefully! It is difficult to undo mistake cuts. Give the students sufficient work time. (60 minutes)
  5. Wrap up the activity however you choose. (10 mins)


Ali Boreiko, Erick Garcia, Daniel deCórdoba


Cool Shadow Art

Another Cool Shadow Art

Example House Lantern

Example Cylinder Landern

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