Telling time

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, October 1, 2009

When Andalusia Elementary School students want to know what time it is, all they have to do now is go outside.

This week, several fifth grade students stayed after school to help put the finishing touches on the school’s outdoor “human sundial.” Homemade mosaic tiled numbers from 7 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.) have been laid out clockwise on the ground and surround a central area. When a student stands in that central area, his or her shadow is cast across the various numbers, showing the correct time.

“Several of the kids stayed after school and did the math to figure out the calculations of exactly where to put the numbers,” AES fifth grade teacher Deb Hughes said. “It’s all based on the sun’s position in the sky, and the angle of the shadow.”

Thursday, the students helped pour a concrete slab for the central area, where students will stand when they use the sundial. The slab will be divided into 12 spaces, each etched with a particular month, designating where to stand for that month.

“The angle of the earth facing the sun changes every month so you have to make small adjustments on where you stand,” Hughes said.

Hughes said the project has been almost a year in the making. In the spring, her students created the mosaic-tiled numbers, several of which have a unique artistic pattern — the “11” tile is incorporated into a space shuttle, for example.

“They tried to pick out a design they thought was solar,” Hughes said. “There’s the one that looks like a space shuttle, and then there are others where there are planets in the background.”

Hughes said all grades at the school would be able to use the sundial, as long as there is enough sunlight to cast a shadow.

“We’re excited because this is something even the little tiny guys can do and it makes it fun,” she said. “I know one of the classes was out here doing some nature journaling, and writing about the fall weather, and this would be a perfect opportunity to stay out here and talk about the earth’s rotation and how the sun moves across the sky.”