In this activity, students learn about the motion of the Sun in relation to the Earth, and how geographic directions are defined. Students use a tetherball pole (or an alternative) as a gnomon and the shadow the Sun casts to determine the exact directions of north, south, east and west. The best tetherball pole to use is one that is in full sunlight for most of the day, one that is vertical and unbent, and one that is built on asphalt or concrete. This activity can be done as a whole class or individual project. Part 1 of this activity involves the initial marking of the tetherball pole shadow using chalk (about 10 minutes) and subsequent markings by one or two students (less than 5 minutes) every half hour over a four-hour period. Students keep a record of the gnomon’s shadow by recording a sketch in their logs. Part 2 of this activity involves using a piece of string to connect the dots after the final observation, then bisecting this arc to determine north and south. The lesson includes discussion questions, background information about gnomons, and a math extension activity making and graphing the tetherball's shadow length at different times. This activity is the fifth lesson in the Ancient Eyes Look to the Skies curriculum guide.


  • Mathematics > General

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The nature of science:The scientific process,Middle School,Mathematics:Data collection, analysis and probability,Grade 4,Archaeoastronomy,Grade 5,NSDL_SetSpec_ncs-NSDL-COLLECTION-000-003-112-115,Heliophysics,Upper Elementary,NSDL,Elementary School,Vocational/Professional Development Education,Mathematics,oai:nsdl.org:2200/20140407123943813T,History/Policy/Law,The nature of science:Science and society,Geoscience,Earth and space science:Earth, moon and sun:Days,History of science



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