The following is a guest post from our contributing blogger, Mary Kate Warner.
Groundhog Day Science Experiment: Shadow Puppets
Predicting the weather based on a groundhog’s shadow isn’t very scientific. But our children can have fun experimenting with lights and shadows and learn something about God’s light as well!
Note to parent/teacher: Since the cardboard box that forms the puppet theater and the finished screen have to be the same size, proportions of these items may have to be adjusted.
• Large piece of cardboard (one source can be an empty cereal box)
• Masking tape
• Sheet of thin white plastic disposable table cloth (sold in party stores)
• Source of light such as a bright table lamp
• Black construction paper
• Long craft sticks or dowels
• Cardboard box the size of the finished frame (see below)
1. To make shadow puppets, use black construction paper. Make shapes of any items such as animals, stick figures, trees, cars, stars, etc.
2. Glue long craft sticks to the tops of the cut-out figures.
3. Cut tops and bottoms off the cereal box, and then open up the cereal box. Trim to size – about 13 x 16 inches. Cut out the center of the cardboard to make a frame that is about two inches all around. It will look like a picture frame.
4. Cut the white plastic sheet to size of frame, leaving enough to lap over the frame. Attach the plastic sheet to the frame using masking tape creating a plastic screen. (It will look like a projection screen).
5. The cardboard box (same size as screen) needs to be open enough on the top for puppeteers to move the puppets, but not open too much because light from above will make the shadows less clear.
6. Attach the screen to the front of the box using tape or glue.
7. Place the box on the back edge of a table. Place the lamp so that its light will shine on the screen.
8. The puppeteers will need to be taller than the table (older children can do this).
9. Turn off all the lights in the room, and then shine the light onto the screen. You now have a puppet theater using light and shadows.
Light travels in straight lines. A shadow is caused when light beams hit an object and bounce off, preventing the light beams from passing through and hitting the ground on the other side. So when, for example, you stand in the sun and the sun’s rays hit you, the light reflects off you and goes the other way, creating a shadow.
What we have to remember is that while we can have fun creating shadows, God’s light is unchanging. However, our actions can create longer or scarier “shadows” in our lives. To stay under God’s light is one way to keep dark shadows from overwhelming us or from leading us away from God’s love.
If you tried this activity with your children, please let us know how you enjoyed it!