Shadow Science

Flashlight and toy figure used for the shadow science model

Find a flashlight and toy for your model.

Have you ever noticed that your shadow is not always the same? Sometimes it’s very long. Sometimes it’s very short. The size of your shadow depends on where the Sun is in the sky. 

You can explore how the Sun affects shadows by making a simple model. In this model, an action figure represents you, and a flashlight represents the Sun. 

You’ll need:

  • A small toy or action figure
  • A flashlight
  • A place without much light

What you do:

  1. Put the figure on a flat surface like the floor or table. Pretend it’s you standing outside on a sunny day.
  2. Hold the flashlight about a foot above the figure and turn it on. Do you see a shadow? 
  3. Hold the flashlight about a foot from one side of the figure and turn it on. Do you see a shadow? 

What did you see?

Did you notice that the figure’s shadow is long when the flashlight is at the side? Did you notice that the figure has almost no shadow when the flashlight is right above? 

Three photos of the toy rooster with different shadows. There is nearly no shadow in the left photo. The shadow is largest in the right photo.

We held a flashlight in different places to make these three shadows. Can you guess where the flashlight was?


What does it mean?

The flashlight is like the Sun. When the Sun is high in the sky during the middle of the day, you have little or no shadow because the light is coming at you from above.  When the Sun is low in the sky in the early morning or evening, your shadow is very long because the light is coming towards your side. 

Explore your shadow!

Go outside on a sunny day and find your own shadow! Try this at different times of day to see how your shadow changes as the Sun moves across the sky. (Remember: never look directly at the Sun.)