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Shadow Skyline

Shadow Skyline
Shadow Skyline

Shadow Skyline is a light and shadow exploration that uses everyday materials to explore shape, form, and structure to create cityscapes and buildings. It's simple to start and has the possibility to extend in many directions. 

Build a shadow skyline and share it with us using the hashtags #LightUpOurDays and #ShadowSkyline! We're always updating our activities and resources, so we would love to hear about your process and reflections as an educator, family member, or learner. 

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To make a shadow skyline, it's important to gather your building materials ahead of time so they're within reach when making. Many types of objects can be made into a skyline, so we encourage experimentation! Here are some qualities of materials that work well for this exploration:

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Use a flashlight, a cell phone flashlight, or another light source that you can easily move around. Notice how crisp or blurry shadows look based on different light sources. 

Stackable Objects
Gather stackable objects like cereal boxes, peanut butter jars, mugs, and blocks. 

Interesting Shadow Makers
Collect some objects that might make interesting shadows and reflections like shiny kitchen utensils, toys and figurines, strawberry baskets, and plastic containers. 


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For each of these categories, consider objects you have around your home: boxes, cans, the inside of chip bags, spoons, toys, and more! Experiment and play with different types of objects.

Check out more material ideas on this downloadable PDF.



Set Up Your Environment

Pick a space to make your shadow skyline. It's important to have a good surface to cast shadows onto, like a wall, bedsheet, or piece of poster paper. Make sure your light source is able to cast shadows onto your selected surface.

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Paper surface (photo: @inka19268979 on Twitter)

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Wall surface (photo: @umit__ugurlu on Twitter)



Inspiring Examples

Check out Sara's round-the-world shadow skylines, do you recognize some of them? What makes them recognizable? What skylines would you add to this collection?


Azerbaijani artist Rashad Alakbarov makes light and shadow installations that repurpose everyday materials into detailed shadow creations.


Story Time + Tinkering

The Tinkering Studio teamed up with Mr. Peter Limata at Emerson Elementary School in Oakland, CA to share tinkering activities connected to his Story Time for young learners. We've collected a set of our favorite books to use as inspiration for engaging with specific tinkering activities.  The activities use simple materials to explore STEAM-based phenomena, emphasizing imagination, collaboration, and iteration! Learn more about Story Time + Tinkering →



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Flashlight by Lizi Boyd is an enchanting and visually striking story told entirely through images. Use the nighttime adventures of a child and their flashlight to kick off your Shadow Skyline explorations and inspire discoveries about light and shadow.