Shadows Lesson for Kids: Facts & Causes

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  • 0:04 What Is a Shadow?
  • 1:00 How Shadows Form
  • 1:25 Tall & Short Shadows
  • 1:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

You probably see shadows every day, but may not have thought much about them. Come learn about shadows, why they happen, why they are sometimes long and sometimes short, and some other cool facts about these dark shapes.

What Is a Shadow?

You are running around in the park on a bright, sunny day, but you aren't alone. It seems that everywhere you go, something is following you. When you walk slowly, it walks slowly; and when you run, it runs! But you aren't being chased by a person - it's just your shadow!

A shadow is the dark shape made when something blocks light. You must have a source of light in order to have shadows.

Some sources of light include the sun, a lightbulb in your room, a flashlight, or a campfire that you sit around and roast marshmallows. All kinds of things are great at blocking that light and making shadows, including trees, fences, buildings - and you!

Even the earth makes a shadow, called an umbra, which can cause a lunar eclipse when the conditions are right and the moon moves through it. The moon usually looks like it's lit up at night because it reflects light from the sun. During a lunar eclipse, it looks like the moon goes dark, but it's really just hanging out in Earth's shadow for a few minutes!

How Shadows Form

The light you see radiates in every direction from a light source and moves in a straight line. When something blocks the straight path of the light, it just stops because it can't go through or around that object. Since light can't get to the area behind the object blocking it, a dark shadow appears. You can change the shape and size of the shadow by moving the object that is blocking the light or by moving the source of the light.

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