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Sundials Lesson for Kids: Facts & History

Instructor: Tiffany Hightower

Tiffany is a certified elementary school teacher. She has a B.A. in English, education certification and a master's degree in education from Central Michigan University.

This lesson will explain interesting facts about sundials and their history throughout the world. Continue reading to explore how and why sundials were created, as well as their importance in history.

What's a Sundial?

Have you ever played outside all day and noticed that the length and location of your shadow changed as the hours went by? You probably also noticed that the sun changed location in the sky throughout the day too. The sun's change in location caused a difference in the size, shape and direction of your shadow.

This is similar to how a tool known as a sundial works. A sundial is an instrument with a pole, or gnomon, in its center and markings that tell the time like a clock. When the sun shines on the gnomon, shadows are cast, or appear at different markings on the sundial.

This is a sundial. Its gnomon has a shadow that indicates the time on the sundial.
Sundial

People are able to tell the time based on the particular mark of time that the sun's shadow falls on. Some sundials were designed to tell twelve hours in the a.m. and p.m. like clocks do today. However, other sundials had markings for all 24 hours in the day.

Have you ever been outside around noon and noticed that the sun seemed to be right above your head? People in the past knew that it was noon when the shadow was at its shortest length on the sundial and the sun was straight above them as well.

Who Invented the Sundial?

Historians do not know exactly who invented the sundial, since it occurred so long ago around 1500 B.C. However, archeologists did discover what is thought to be the first sundial in Egypt made of stone. Other historians believe that people in Greece, Rome or Babylonia could have been the first inventors of sundials as well.

This is an early version of a sundial from ancient Egypt.
AncientSundial

Why Was the Sundial Invented?

Can you imagine planning your day for school, hanging out with friends, or even going to the movies without a way to tell time? It would be very difficult or impossible to coordinate all of these plans without a clock. People long ago also made plans and wanted to have a convenient way to arrange times to do things. Therefore, communities began to create sundials for people to know the time of the day.

What Are Some Fun Facts About Sundials?

Many single family homes are built on one acre of land, which is usually enough space for a house and a front and backyard for children to play in. Can you imagine someone building a sundial to be this large too? There is a sundial that is one acre in size also!

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