Shadow Games

Smithsonian Institution Libraries

These exercises and lesson plans are designed to accompany and enrich the study and discussion of the June 2004 Transit of Venus.


Shadows of walking people


Students discover how light source, object, and distance affect the shadows' shapes

Grade Level:



  • Create shapes in the form of shadows by directing light source at object
  • Change light, distance from object, angle, and/or shape and note differences to the shadow
  • Describe the relationship of the objects, the light source, and the shadows

Subject Area or Standard:

Science and Measurement

Materials Needed:

  • Movable light source (lamp, flash light, etc.)
  • Large pieces of paper that can be mounted on wall or layed on floor
  • Rulers or tape measures
  • Markers, pencils
  • Assortment of objects of different shapes and sizes






  1. Tape paper to wall or floor.
  2. Set up light source and angle so that it is shining toward one of the sheets of paper.
  3. Place object between light source and paper and note distance that object is from light source.
  4. Draw around shape that is projected on to the paper.
  5. Move the light source or the object, note the distance, and draw shape.
  6. Compare the size of the shapes that were placed at different distances.
  7. What happens to the size when the distance is increased? When it is decreased?
  8. Does the shape itself change?



Assign one object to each student. Student works individually with light source and places object at three different distances from light source. Student creates a data table listing the distance from light source and the measurements of the shape at each distance point. Student states relationship between distance, light source and dimensions of shadow.