Can you tell the time with your own DIY sundial? Certainly, though not at night! For many thousands of years people would track the time with a sundial. Make your own sundial at home or in the classroom from simple supplies. All you need is a paper plate, a pencil and of course, a sunny day to get started. We love easy, hands-on STEM projects for kids!


Make A Sundial For STEM

Get ready to add this simple sundial STEM project, to your lesson plans this season. Our STEM projects are designed with you, the parent or teacher, in mind!

Easy to set up, quick to do, most activities will take only 15 to 30 minutes to complete and are heaps of fun! Plus, our supplies lists usually contain only free or cheap materials you can source from home!

Let’s explore how a sundial works, and how to tell the time with a simple sundial you can make yourself. While you’re at it, make sure to check out these other fun outdoor STEM projects.

What Is A Sundial?

There are many types of sundials, most contain a ‘gnomon’, a thin rod that makes a shadow onto a dial, and a flat plate. The first ever sundial was created more than 5,500 years ago.

The movement of the sun and shadow across the sundial is the result of Earth’s rotation on its axis. As our planet spins, the sun appears to move across the sky, when really we are the ones who are moving!

A sundial works because as the sun’s position seems to move in our sky, the shadow it casts will align with lines marking each hour, telling us the time of day.

Make your own sundial with our simple instructions below and then take it outside to tell the time. It doesn’t matter which way your sundial faces if it is in full sun. An easy way to set it up is by starting it on the hour and then making a mark on the plate, at regular intervals.

Make a water clock for another fun way to track time.


What Is STEM For Kids?

So you might ask, what does STEM actually stand for? STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. The most important thing you can take away from this, is that STEM is for everyone!

Yes, kids of all ages can work on STEM projects and enjoy STEM lessons. STEM activities are great for group work, too!

STEM is everywhere! Just look around. The simple fact that STEM surrounds us is why it’s so important for kids to be a part of, to use and to understand STEM.

From the buildings you see in town, the bridges that connect places, the computers we use, the software programs that go with them, and to the air we breathe, STEM is what makes it all possible.

Interested in STEM plus ART? Check out all our STEAM Activities!

Engineering is an important part of STEM. What is engineering in kindergarten and elementary? Well, it’s putting together simple structures and other items, and in the process, learning about the science behind them. Essentially, it’s a whole lot of doing! 

Helpful STEM Resources To Get You Started

Here are a few resources to help you introduce STEM more effectively to your kiddos or students and feel confident when presenting materials. You’ll find helpful free printables throughout.

Get your FREE printable sundial project!

How To Make A Sundial

Can you tell me what time it is by using the sun? Let’s find out!


  • Paper plate
  • Pencil
  • Marker
  • Sunny day


STEP 1: Using your pencil, mark the center of your paper plate and then poke your pencil through it.

LOOK: Awesome STEM Pencil Projects


STEP 2: Start your experiment at noon if possible.


STEP 3: Place your plate and pencil sundial on the ground outside in sunlight. Place it somewhere you can leave it for several hours.

STEP 4: Mark the shadow with the number 12 to begin.


STEP 5: Set a timer and check on your sundial at different intervals during the day. Mark the time and placement of the pencil’s shadow to tell what time it is. The more accurate you want to be, the more makings you will need.

Now you can use your sundial to tell the time, on a different day in a similar position. Take it outside and test it out!


More Fun Outdoor STEM Projects

When you finish making this sundial, why not explore more engineering with one of these ideas below. You can find all our engineering activities for kids here!

Dive Into Earth Science For Kids

Check out this fantastic variety of Earth Science projects for kids, from the oceans to weather, to space and more.

Printable STEM Pack for Kids

80+ Doable Engineering Projects in one convenient pack!

  • Full instructions with sample images
  • Activity-specific instruction sheets
  • Data Collection Sheets
  • Questions for Reflection
  • Architecture Building Cards: Try the tallest tower challenge
  • Bridge Building Cards: Explore different types of bridges to build your own.
  • Paper Chain STEM Challenge: Who can make the longest chain? Great icebreaker or quick challenge!
  • 3 Little Pigs Architectural Pack: Design a house that won’t blow away!
  • Great marshmallow challenge: A classic challenge kids love!
  • Real-world STEM challenge lesson but don’t know where to start? Our easy-to-follow template shows the steps!
  • What’s the difference between a scientist and an engineer?
  • Crossword and word search with engineering vocabulary.
  • Engineering vocabulary cards
  • Design a one-of-a-kind invention and write about it with this 5-page activity!