Build a Sundial





Name of Activity Build a Sundial
Author STOMP
Keywords sundial, observations, revolution, earth, sun, rotation, axis, gnomon, solstice, equinox
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will build a sundial and record observations from it.
Lesson Objectives: This activity introduces students to various topics associated with the revolution of the earth around the sun and the earth’s rotation on its axis with respect to the sun.
Materials Needed: Paper plate
Popsicle stick
Preparation and Set Up: Gather the necessary materials.
Arrange students in pairs.
Distribute necessary materials.
Necessary Background A sundial can record one of two things. Either the sun’s position in the sky can be recorded at various stages throughout the day or the length of the shadow cast can be monitored at the same time everyday for a period of weeks or months. The lesson can be used to target either of these principles.

Gnomon – The object which casts the shadow.
Solstice – The day of the year that is has either the longest or shortest amount of daylight depending on the sun’s position in the sky (in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice is the shortest day and the summer solstice is the longest day).
Equinox – The two days of the year that fall midway between the Summer and Winter solstices. Day and night are almost equal.

  1. Start with an introductory discussion about seasons as determined by the sun. The summer and winter solstices, and the fall and spring equinoxes.
    1. Sundials support this theory by demonstrating that the sun’s rays are most indirect in the winter, when the sun is lowest in the sky and the day is the shortest. The shadow cast the the gnomon is the longest.
    2. The summer is the opposite. The shadow cast is the shortest.
  2. Introduce the idea of the Earth’s rotation.
    1. To us, it appears that the sun moves across the sky, but it is actually the revolution of the Earth on its axis.
  3. When the sun rises in the East it cast a shadow that can be tracked all day long as the sun moves from East to West.
  4. To make a sundial:
    1. Draw two perpendicular lines on the back of a paper plate that cross at the center.
    2. Designate one line to be north.
    3. Draw in a compass rose to label all the directions.
    4. Place a popsicle stick in the center and secure it with tape on the underside of the plate.
    5. You can either demonstrate with a flashlight how the sundial works or bring them outside.
      1. Have students mark where the dial is at a particular time of day (use a compass to orient the sundial).
      2. Let students go outside at different times of the day to test their sundial (be sure to always use a compass to orient the sundial).
      3. Do this activity over a month/year to see how the length of the shadow changes with the seasons.
Reference 1

Orbits of the Earth, Moon, and Sun





Name of Activity Orbits of the Earth, Moon, and Sun
Author Michael Hart, Usula Deelstra
Keywords earth, moon, sun, models, rotation, tilt, relative size, seasons, stars, size, motion
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description The class will explore the relation between the Earth, moon, and sun using classroom models.
Lesson Objectives: The Purpose of this activity is to discuss how the Earth, moon, and sun move relative to each other. And to discuss rotation, tilt, and relative size. In regards to relative size, a physical activity is introduced to help enhance the concept of the relation of the Earth, moon, and sun to each other.
Materials Needed: - Balloons.
- Tape Measure.
- Globe.
- Flashlight.
Necessary Background This activity deals with the orbit of the earth around the sun and the orbit of the moon around the earth. It takes the earth one year (365 days) to orbit the sun. At the same time, the earth is rotating about its own axis. The earth makes one complete rotation once a day. The combination of the rotation of the earth, its orbit about the sun, and the earth’s natural tilt cause seasons on the earth. For a more detailed description see This website contains information about the earth’s orbit, its rotation, and the seasons. Similar to the earth, the moon has an orbit and rotation also. A description of the moon can be found at


  1. Begin the activity by discussing facts relating to the Earth, moon and sun.
  2. Talk about how the three move relative to each other.
  3. Select three students to imitate the motion of the sun, Earth, and moon.
    1. Have the Earth stand in place and turn around, talk about how one turn is one day.
    2. Have the Earth walk one lap around the sun, imitating the passing of one year on Earth.
    3. Have the student carefully do both movements together.
    4. Next add the moon. Have the moon orbit the Earth, it takes 28 days for the moon to orbit the Earth. During this time we see all the stages of the moon.
    5. Finally, put all the movements together.
  4. Discus the tilt of the Earth, and how it produces seasons.
    1. Turn out the lights. Using the globe and flashlight have one student hold the flashlight representing the sun.
    2. Have a second student walk around the flashlight with the globe.
    3. Show students that as the globe moves around the sun, the northern or southern hemispheres will be tilted towards the sun, these are the different seasons.
  5. Discuss the relative sizes of the sun, moon, and Earth.
    1. The sun is the largest, but to us it appears about the same size as the moon because it is so much farther away.
    2. Have students break into groups of two.
    3. One student will get a small balloon and the other a larger balloon.
    4. The student with the small balloon will tell the student with the large balloon to walk backwards until the balloons appear to be the same size
    5. Finally, ask students to discuss the relationship between the size that an object appears and the distance from you that it is. Finally, explain that we “built” our own models today to explore the motion of the planets, engineers use models to understand systems like the solar system that are too big to make life-sized models to study.
Reference 1

Solar System Rotation and Revolution





Name of Activity Solar System Rotation and Revolution
Author STOMP
Keywords model, solar system, rotation, orbits, sun, revolution, motion
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will create a working model of the solar system.
Lesson Objectives: To develop an understanding about planets rotating on their axes and their revolution around the sun within orbits.
Materials Needed: Video of the solar system
Large, teacher made diagram of the solar system
Teacher made planet info cards
Picture of the planet.
Distance and order from sun
Planet before and after it
Amount of time for one rotation
Four planet markers for each planet (picture and name of planet
Tape Measures
Preparation and Set Up: Make large solar system diagram.
Construct planet info cards.
Create planet markers.
Collect materials.
Arrange students into four groups.
Distribute materials to the class.
Necessary Background Use online resources to find information on planets. Try as a resource.



  1. Show students video on solar system. This video should include information about rotation and revolution.
  2. Talk about the meaning of rotation and revolution.
  3. Ask the students:
    1. How can you demonstrate the motions in the solar system?
  4. Break into groups and tell students that they can use anything in the classroom to aid their demonstration.
  5. Students will be allowed approximately 10 minutes to complete the task.
  6. Have each group present their demonstration.
  7. After the group demonstrations, explain to students that they will recreate a model of the solar system’s motions by using themselves as the sun and planets.
    1. Assign individuals, or small groups of individuals to be a specific planet, or the sun.
    2. Each group will be given a ball of string, four planet marker cards, and a planet info card that tells them the length of string they should cut to replicate their planets orbit.
    3. Bring the class to a large open area.
      1. You could clear the classroom by pushing desks to the side, go outside, use gymnasium or multi-purpose room.
    4. Decide where to place the sun first.
    5. The “Planet” groups will use tape measures to determine how far away from the sun they should stand. Students should place their markers at 4 spots with the same radius from the sun where their orbit will be.
    6. Have students place their strings to mark their orbits.
    7. Each student group will choose one member to stand on their orbit in a straight line from the sun.
    8. Using one student as an example show how the student would revolve around the sun while rotating on their axis.
    9. Have nine the students orbit the sun, each representing a planet.
  8. Have the class come together to discuss the difference between rotation and revolution. Students can write their explanations on a paper using words or diagrams.
Reference 1
Online Reference(s)
Umbrella Unit/Curriculum (if applicable) Solar System

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