To celebrate the return of the sun we decided to have a go at making simple sundials. You can print your own sundial from websites such as but I wanted the children to observe the shadows the sun made during the day and use that as a starting point for discussion about how the earth spins around the sun. This is a topic that can include science, maths, history; the possibilities are endless.  Liverpool Museum has a very simple quiz explaining how the earth moves round the sun and why we have seasons. I then thought of ways I could use use natural resources to demonstate the tilt of the earth. We tried two methods.

The plant pot method

You will need

A straight stick

Plant pot of soil


Hard surface to draw on

Alarm clock

How we did it

sundialWe put the stick in the plant pot and set the alarm for 2pm.

When the Alarm struck 2 we drew a line where the shadow was and how long it was and wrote 2. We then set the alarm for 3. When the alarm rang we marked the 3 o clock shadow and wrote 3.

Our Forest School is only in the afternoon. But we’ve left the plant pot where it is and will repeat next week, and then again in September using different coloured chalk and record if there is any change and discussing why we think it may be changing.

The wood cookie method

You will need

A short nail

A large wood cookie

fine permanent marker

Flat surface in the sun.

Alarm clock

How we did it

We used our mallets to gently tap the nails into the wood cookie. We placed our wood cookie on a flat surface in the sun . We set the alarm clock for 2 pm and marked the shadow with a marker pen. We then did the same for 3pm. We learnt that as the shadow lengthens towards the end of the day our wood cookie wood not be big enough to mark it. We decided we would repeat the experiment with the nail hammered further in so that it cast a shorter shadow. I learnt that this would be a great activity to do on bushcraft days in where I have children for the whole day so that we can mark out the school day.

homemade sundial

Here a Forest School student tried to create a larger sundial using wood cookies.