Hey kids! It’s time to make a sundial!
This November, Life is a Garden is helping the whole family get into the spring of things by celebrating our South African sunshine. Here’s an educational, hands-on project all about time, the Earth’s rotation, and our life-supporting sun. Get ready scientists and explorers, time is upon us!
A bit about the sundial
Did you know? The sundial is the oldest known instrument for telling time! This ancient, mysterious doohickey tracks the position of the sun using a gnomon, which is the centrepiece of the sundial that indicates time by the position of its shadow. Up until the early 19th century, sundials were the main instrument people used to tell time. When correctly positioned, sundials can even tell time down to the minute!
You will need:
- A flat piece of wood: This is going to serve as the body of the clock. You can upcycle an old slab of wood from the garage or the scrapyard, use a tree stump, or even repurpose a tile slab. Your local GCA Garden Centre has as lovely variety of wooden décor slabs to choose from.
- Pebbles or stones: These are going to be the hour placeholders. They can be collected during a walk, scavenged from the garden, or purchased from your favourite GCA Garden Centre. We recommend using pebbles with a flatter surface and ones lighter in colour.
Sunny Suggestion: Instead of using pebbles as hour placeholders, you could also use little succulent or cactus pots! Your garden centre has THE cutest variety of mini cactus pots and this DIY is the perfect opportunity to home a couple. If you’re going for the potted look, you could use the underside of a pot as your clock base too!
3. Paint: To paint numbers of the clock onto each stone and decorate as desired.
4. A dell stick for the gnomon: This is the centrepiece of the sundial that when the sun hits it, a shadow is cast onto the wooden clock base indicating time.
5. A compass or Aunty Google: You will need to find true North to accurately position your sundial.
6. Some super glue, a sunny spot in the garden, and an analogue watch.
Positioning and assembling your sundial
- True North, here we come! Did you know? There is even a sundial app for kids to download! They can ask Aunty Google or the App Store for help. If you still have a compass, then get your little explorer out there to pinpoint exactly where Santa comes from.
- Once you have found true North and are happy with your sunny spot in the garden, position your wooden clock base. Kids can add all sorts of personal touches to their clock base with some paint or even by burning some cool patterns into the wood using a magnifying glass.
- Paint on the numbers of the clock onto each pebble or stone. Have some fun with different numbering styles. Kids could even go for an ancient civilisation look and paint in Roman Numerals or hieroglyphics.
- Use the super glue to secure your dell stick in the centre of the clock base. You can also use a pencil or straight stick from the garden.
- Position your hour place holder pebbles around or on top of your clock base, depending on how large your stones are.
- By now, kids should see the shadow being cast onto the sundial. Use your analogue watch to see if the shadow and real-time are matching up. If not, make sure the kids really did find Santa’s true home, and perhaps help them to do a little repositioning.
A DIY garden sundial is an excellent opportunity to get kids outdoors, inspire a thirst for exploration, create awareness for the vastness of our universe, and teach a thing or two about the evolution of time and life on Earth.