Learn how to use the sun to tell time!

Making a Sundial

How it works:

What you can deduct from the sun’s position in the sky:

Time: Using a sundial the position of the sun creates a shadow from the pencil showing the approximate time.

Cardinal Directions: The cardinal directions are North, East, West, and South, and is based on the sun being North.  The sun can also show you what way they are located. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  Therefore, the sun is towards the East in the morning and towards the West during the evening. By knowing where the sun is rising or setting you can figure out the Cardinal Directions.

Seasons: It is more north in June and more south in December.  In March and September, around the equinoxes, the sun rises and sets at exactly East and West (see more here).  In addition, it is warmer weather in the summer months, because of the angle of the rays of the sun, not because it is closer to us.  This also accounts for the variation in climate between the equator and polar regions of the Earth.

Further reading on geocentric directions: Here

How to do:


  • Sun

  • Paper Plate

  • Pencil

  • Marker

  1. Label the paper plate like a clock.

  2. Put a pencil vertically in the middle of the plate.

  3. Place outside making sure it is in the sunlight.

  4. The shadow on the pencil should show the approximate time.

Book Recommendation

“Giving Thanks” A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp is a message of thanks that is given at Native American Ceremonies.


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