Does the Angle of the Light Affect the Shadow We See?

For better Printing: pdf version

Materials (per group):

Manilla folder
Small lump of clay
2” piece of drinking straw

1. Open the folder and place it on a desk.
2. Place the lump of clay near the center of the folder and push it down to make it stay in place.
3. Insert the straw into the clay so that it stands perpendicular to the desk and folder.
4. Darken the room.
5. Move the flashlight into different positions to find the shortest and longest possible shadows of the straw.


A. How do you make the shortest shadows for the straw?
B. How do you make the longest shadows for the straw?
C. Can you make it so there is no shadow? Explain.

Explore some more:
6. Position the flashlight to make a shadow about 4” long. While one student holds the flashlight in this position, another one tilts the folder in different directions.

D. What happens to the shadow when you tilt the folder?

Explore some more:
7. Make the 4” shadow on the flat folder again. While one student holds the light in place, another student turns the folder in a clockwise direction.

E. As you turn the folder, what happens to the shadow?

F. As you turn the folder, does the shadow point to different places?

G. We have been looking at shadows. What do these shadows tell us about the light? (What can we learn about the light by looking at shadows?)

Polar Light Home: Land of the Midnight Sun
Activity 1: How Long will my Shadow Grow?
(Keeping a shadow tape through the year)
Activity 2: How does the surface affect the light we see?
Activity 3 Preparing an axis holder for The Shadow Shows
Activity 4: The Shadow Shows (The Reason for the Seasons) Part 1
The Shadow Shows (The Reason for the Seasons) Part 2