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Astronomy: Model the Sun’s Path; Make a Classroom Sundial

How does a sundial work? How can you tell time from a sundial? How can you use a sundial to tell direction? While you can build an outdoor sundial, this one is unique in that you can build it indoors. By using it you'll see why clocks run clockwise. You can use the same setup to show how a sundial works in the southern hemisphere. This activity gives a simple and concrete way to show how sundials work and answers the question as to why clocks run clockwise.


Questions Addressed

❑ How can you use a sundial to tell direction? 

❑ How does a sundial in the southern hemisphere differ from one in the northern hemisphere? 

❑ Why do clocks run clockwise?


Concepts Addressed

♦  The sun’s apparent position depends on your viewing location

♦  Sundials run clockwise only in the northern hemisphere

♦  The Sun’s path (ecliptic) changes depending on viewing location


Standards Addressed

TEKS 6.11A


Materials Needed

string, tape, copies of sun pattern (included), wooden dowel (or ring stand), lamp with a clear bulb, masking tape


Preparation Required

Make copies of the suns and hang them from the ceiling as described.

Teaching Time 

This lab takes about 30 minutes (more with writing assignments)


Answer Key

Extensive teacher notes address the many questions that come up. You shouldn’t have to do outside research on this topic unless you want to. 


Student Sheets

• Scaffolded writing prompts & lab reporting 

Astronomy: Model the Sun’s Path; Make a Classroom Sundial


    Answer Keys and Teacher Notes address most questions and issues that might arise in this study—you shouldn’t have to do any outside research unless you want to.

    Connect with me: If you have questions or problems, please let me know and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


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